Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/90

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made. It was indeed the prevalent idea in Europe that that would be the course she would adopt. But, with singular generosity and scientific zeal, she not only devoted to the work of observing the earlier transit a sum largely exceeding the amount granted by any other government (and nearly twice as large as Great Britain paid), but undertook some of the most difficult portions of the work, which otherwise would have been left unprovided for. I cannot but recall with a feeling of something like personal satisfaction (though conscious that such a feeling ought to find no place in the mind of the true student of science), the gratification with which I welcomed the announcement, early in 1873, that America had undertaken to occupy positions, the importance of which I had long pointed out, but which, but a fortnight before that announcement reached Europe, had been confidently described as astronomically inferior and geographically unsuitable. The pleasure I then felt was only surpassed by that which I experienced subsequently, when news received from the various observing stations showed that at those just mentioned were achieved some of the most important successes of the occasion.

Another noble contribution made to science at Washington has been the erection of the splendid refractor 26 inches in aperture, which is now the chief equatorial of the observatory. America is fortunate in possessing in Alvan Clark the greatest living master of the art of constructing large object-glasses of good definition. He had already constructed a telescope 18 inches in aperture for the observatory at Chicago, but by the contract negotiated with him in August, 1870, by Prof. Newcomb, he was called on to achieve a far more difficult task in the construction of a telescope of 26 inches clear aperture. He has successfully accomplished this task, and the telescope has already obtained good results under Newcomb's skillful management. The most important of these is an extensive series of observations of the satellites of Uranus and Neptune, made with a view of determining the elements of their orbits and the masses of the planets round which they circle. The observation of the two Uranian satellites, Ariel and Umbriel, discovered by Lassell, and of the Neptunian satellite also discovered by him, must be regarded, on account of the extreme difficulty of observing these bodies, as a very valuable contribution to astronomy. It is pleasant to notice that Newcomb has been able most thoroughly to confirm the accuracy of Lassell's work in Malta, the mean motions of Ariel and Umbriel deduced from the Malta observations being so accurate that, says Newcomb, "they will probably suffice for the identification of those objects during several centuries." Although no systematic search has been made for new satellites of Uranus, yet enough has been done to show, "with considerable certainty," that at least the outer satellites supposed to have been seen by Sir W. Herschel "can have had no real existence" (as satellites, that is to say).