Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/242

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of so singular a community of motion), the mind is lost in contemplating the immensity of the periods which the revolutions of the components of the system must occupy. Mädler had already assigned to the revolution of Alcor around Mizar (Zeta Ursæ) a period of more than 7,000 years. But, if these-stars, which appear so close to the naked eye, have a period of such length, what must be the cyclic periods of stars which cover a range of several degrees upon the heavens?" (From Zeta to Beta is a distance on the heavens of about 19°.) "The peculiarities of the apparent proper motions of the stars," I added, "lend a new interest to the researches which Dr. Huggins is preparing to make into the stellar proper motions of recess and approach."

But a few months later, in a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, I pointed out more definitely what result I expected from Dr. Huggins's researches. "Before long," I said, "it is likely that the theory of star-drift will be subjected to a crucial test, since spectroscopic analysis affords the means of determining the stellar motions of recess and approach. The task is a very difficult one, but astronomers have full confidence that in the able hands of Dr. Huggins it will be successfully accomplished. I await the result with full confidence that it will confirm my views."

It will be manifest that if the five large stars in Ursa are really travelling in the same direction, then, when Dr. Huggins applied the new method of research, he would find that, so far as motion in the line of sight was concerned, these stars were either all receding or all approaching at the same rate, or else that they were all alike in showing no signs of any motion, either of recess or approach.

But in the mean time there was another kind of evidence which the spectroscope might give, and on which I formed some expectations. If these stars form a single system, it seemed likely that they would all be found to be constituted alike—in other words, that their spectra would be similar. Not, indeed, that associated stars always display such similarity. Indeed, the primary star of a binary system not unfrequently exhibits a spectrum unlike that of the small companion. But the five large stars in Ursa, being obviously primary members of the scheme they form, might be expected to resemble each other in general constitution. Moreover, since the stars not included in the set viz.,—Alpha and Eta—might be regarded as probably very much nearer or very much farther away, it was to be expected (though not so confidently) that these two stars would have spectra unlike the spectrum common (on the supposition) to the five stars.

Now, Secchi announced that the stars of the Great Bear, with the exception of Alpha, have spectra belonging to the same type as the spectrum of the bright stars Sirius, Vega, Altair, Regulus, and Rigel. This result was in very pleasing accordance with the anticipations I had formed, except that I should rather have expected to find that the star Eta had a spectrum unlike that of the remaining five stars of the