Page:A short history of astronomy(1898).djvu/296

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236
[Ch. IX.
A Short History of Astronomy

that on the solid earth, and that on the water farthest from the moon is less. Consequently the water moves on the surface of the earth, the general character of the motion being the same as if the portion of the ocean on the side towards the moon were attracted and that on the opposite side repelled. Owing to the rotation of the earth and the moon's motion, the moon returns to nearly the same position with respect to any place on the earth in a period which exceeds a day by (on the average) about 50 minutes, and consequently Newton's argument shewed that low tides (or high tides) due to the moon would follow one another at any given place at intervals equal to about half this period; or, in other words, that two tides would in general occur daily, but that on each day any particular phase of the tides would occur on the average about 50 minutes later than on the preceding day, a result agreeing with observation. Similar but smaller tides were shewn by the same argument to arise from the action of the sun, and the actual tide to be due to the combination of the two. It was shewn that at new and full moon the lunar and solar tides would be added together, whereas at the half moon they would tend to counteract one another, so that the observed fact of greater tides every fortnight received an explanation. A number of other peculiarities of the tides were also shewn to result from the same principles.

Newton ingeniously used observations of the height of the tide when the sun and moon acted together and when they acted in opposite ways to compare the tide-raising powers of the sun and moon, and hence to estimate the mass of the moon in terms of that of the sun, and consequently in terms of that of the earth (§ 185). The resulting mass of the moon was about twice what it ought to be according to modern knowledge, but as before Newton's time no one knew of any method of measuring the moon's mass even in the roughest way, and this result had to be disentangled from the innumerable complications connected with both the theory and with observation of the tides, it cannot but be regarded as a remarkable achievement. Newton's theory of the tides was based on certain hypotheses which had to be made in order to render the