Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/200

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No eye can fail to note her, and as the nearest and most beautiful of the Earth's sisters it would seem that everybody should be as familiar with her appearance as with the face of a friend. But the popular ignorance of Venus, and the other members of the planetary family to which our mother, the Earth, belongs, is only an index of the denser ignorance concerning the stars—the brothers of our great father, the Sun. I believe this ignorance is largely due to mere indifference, which, in its turn, arises from a false and pedantic method of presenting astronomy as a jumble of mathematical formulæ, and a humble handmaiden of the art of navigation. Some teachers of astronomy are so fearful that their imagination may run away with them in the boundless fields of the universe, that they hobble it with a chain of ephemerides, break its jaw with a logarithmic bit, and end by earning what they, perhaps unconsciously, seek, a niche in the temple of Dry-as-dust. Of course, the public looks upon such things with indifference. Understand, I do not mean to cast doubt upon the scientific value of technical work in astronomy. The science could not exist without it. And no reproach is intended to those who have made the spectroscope reveal the composition of the sun and stars, and who are now making photography picture the heavens as they are, and even reveal phenomena which lie beyond the range of human vision. These are the men who have taken astronomy out of its swaddling-clothes, and set it on its feet as a progressive science. But when one sees the depressing and repellent effect that has evidently been produced upon the popular mind by the ordinary methods of presenting astronomy, one can not resist the temptation to utter a vigorous protest, and to declare that this glorious science is not the grinning mathematical skeleton that it has been represented to be.

Whoever will use an opera-glass, or even his naked eyes, with intelligence, in surveying the heavens, will quickly convince himself that all of astronomy is not embraced in the "Nautical Almanac."

In the April number of "The Popular Science Monthly" I pointed out some of the most interesting objects to be seen among the stars that adorn the sky in spring. The annual revolution of the heavens has now carried those stars that in April shone in the western sky below the horizon, while the constellations that were then in the east have now climbed to the zenith, or passed over to the west, and a fresh set of stars has taken their place in the east. In the present article we shall deal with what may be called the stars of summer; and, in order to furnish occupation for the observer with an opera-glass throughout the summer months, I have endeavored to so choose the constellations in which our explorations will be made, that some of them shall be favorably situated in each of the months of June, July, and August. The circular map represents the heavens at midnight on the 1st of June; at eleven o'clock, on the 15th of June; at ten o'clock, on the 1st of July; at nine o'clock, on the 15th of July; and at eight o'clock,