Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/129

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117
LITERARY NOTICES.

trum analysis, and certainly the beginning of its utilization as a powerful method of investigation.

The third part of the book, the most important in extent and results, is devoted to the application of the spectrum analysis to the heavenly bodies.

The sunlight, according to its brightness and to the peculiarities of its spectrum, is the best and easiest example to study. The dark lines in infinite number which it shows, called "Frauenhofer lines," from the discoverer, deserve special attention; therefore the author has illustrated the description of the sun-spectrum with two sets of maps. The first is a reduction of Kirchhoff's maps engraved on wood, representing in several tints the lines from A to G; the second series is a reduction to about half size of the admirable normal solar spectrum of Angström, in which the Frauenhofer lines from a to H1 H2 are coordinated according to their wave-lengths. The accuracy of these lithographic plates is really wonderful; they will have the great merit of introducing among physicists and astronomers the wave-length scale for the designation of lines instead of Kirchhoff's scale, which is an arbitrary one; and in any case they will facilitate the transformation of the data from one to another. I must add that Angström's maps have been introduced into the present edition by the English editor, and that such an addition is certainly one of the greatest attractions of this book for scientific men.

A good abstract of Kirchhoff's and Angström's memoirs on the coincidence of the dark solar lines with the bright lines of metallic vapors leads to the hypothetical constitution of the sun; this problem is so difficult, that it is necessary to leave to every one the responsibility of his own ideas on this subject.

The remaining part of the book is entirely devoted to the most delicate applications of spectrum analysis to astronomy. A preliminary description of the sun-spots, faculæ, and other peculiarities of the surface of the sun, of the prominences round the disk, and so on, is given before the spectroscopic process for analyzing these appearances is introduced, and enables the reader to understand very well the difficulties of the problem and the interest of its solution. I must mention especially the interesting account of the three total solar eclipses of 1868, 1869 and 1870. A large series of drawings and photographic facsimiles give the best idea of the phenomena, and show the improvements due to photography and spectroscopy; the relatively great extent devoted to this account is justified by the importance of the subject; the spectrum analysis of the prominences is in fact one of the most considerable results obtained for a long time in the science of cosmogony.

The spectroscope, as it is known, is able to give an exact measurement of the proper velocity of the luminous bodies. A German physicist, Doppler, deserves to be mentioned as the first who called the attention of astronomers to this subject, though a good number of his assertions may be incorrect. After him, Fizeau, a French physicist, to whom we are indebted for the first determinations of the velocity of light on the surface of the earth, showed the errors of Doppler in a little paper not very well known, published in 1849, and calculated the apparent change of refrangibility which would be produced by the proper motion of some heavenly bodies; but no direct experiment was made before the complete application of spectrum analysis to the sidereal phenomena. In this way Schellen's book gives a good abstract of the works of Huggins and Secchi. In these researches the velocity of rotation of the sun was to be tested as a verification of the general law of the phenomenon. I ought to say that the rather discordant results want a theoretical analysis, because the problem seems to me, in the case of the sun, more complicated than it appears at first sight. However, the influence of the velocity of the gas streams, especially of hydrogen, which constitute the greater part of the prominences, is unquestionably verified by Lockyer's observations. In the same way Huggins has proved and determined the proper motion of Sirius by the apparent change of refrangibility of the F line.

The remaining part of the book is devoted to stellar and meteoric spectrum analysis. It is impossible to give a superficial notice of the beautiful researches of Huggins and