Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/210

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of the solar atmosphere. Lockyer considers that his researches lend great probability to this view. The whole subject is one of intense interest, and we may rejoice that it is occupying the attention, not only of such men as Abney, Dewar, Hartley, Liveing, Roscoe, and Schuster in our own country, but also of many foreign observers.

When geology so greatly extended our ideas of past time, the continued heat of the sun became a question of greater interest than ever. Helmholtz has shown that, while adopting the nebular hypothesis, we need not assume that the nebulous matter was originally incandescent; but that its present high temperature may be, and probably is, mainly due to gravitation between its parts. It follows that the potential energy of the sun is far from exhausted, and that with continued shrinking it will continue to give out light and beat, with little, if any, diminution for several million years.

Like the sand of the sea, the stars of heaven have ever been used as effective symbols of number, and the improvements in our methods of observation have added fresh force to our original impressions. We now know that our earth is but a fraction of one out of at least 75,000,000 worlds. But this is not all. In addition to the luminous heavenly bodies, we can not doubt that there are countless others, invisible to us from their greater distance, smaller size, or feebler light; indeed, we know that there are many dark bodies which now emit no light, or comparatively little. Thus, in the case of Procyon, the existence of an invisible body is proved by the movement of the visible star. Again, I may refer to the curious phenomena presented by Algol, a bright star in the head of Medusa. This star shines without change for two days and thirteen hours; then, in three hours and a half, dwindles from a star of the second to one of the fourth magnitude; and then, in another three and a half hours, reassumes its original brilliancy. These changes seem certainly to indicate the presence of an opaque body, which intercepts at regular intervals a part of the light emitted by Algol.

Thus the floor of heaven is not only "thick inlaid with patines of bright gold," but studded also with extinct stars; once, probably, as brilliant as our own sun, but now dead and cold, as Helmholtz tells us that our sun itself will be, some seventeen million years hence.

The connection of astronomy with the history of our planet has been a subject of speculation and research during a great part of the half-century of our existence. Sir Charles Lyell devoted some of the opening chapters of his great work to the subject. Haughton has brought his very original powers to bear on the subject of secular changes in climate, and Croll's contributions to the same subject are of great interest. Last, but not least, I must not omit to make mention of the series of massive memoirs (I am happy to say, not yet nearly terminated) by George Darwin on tidal friction, and the influence of tidal action on the evolution of the solar system. I may, per-