Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/208

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ished and decayed, while Rome rose and fell, while the scepter of civilization has passed from race to race, these starry creations of fancy have shone on unchanged. The mind that would ignore them now deserves compassion.

The reader will observe a little circle in the map, and near it the figures 1604. This indicates the spot where one of the most famous temporary stars on record appeared in the year 1604. At first it was far brighter than any other star in the heavens; but it quickly faded, and in a little over a year disappeared. It is particularly interesting, because Kepler—the quaintest, and not far from the greatest, figure in astronomical history—wrote a curious book about it. Some of the philosophers of the day argued that the sudden outburst of the wonderful star was caused by the chance meeting of atoms. Kepler's reply was characteristic, as well as amusing:

"I will tell those disputants, my opponents, not my own opinion, but my wife's. Yesterday, when I was weary with writing, my mind being quite dusty with considering these atoms, I was called to supper, and a salad I had asked for was set before me. 'It seems, then,' said I, aloud, 'that if pewter dishes, leaves of lettuce, grains of salt, drops of water, vinegar and oil, and slices of egg, had been flying about in the air from all eternity, it might at last happen by chance that there would come a salad.' 'Yes,' says my wife, 'but not so nice and well-dressed as this of mine is.'"

While there are no objects of special interest for the observer with an opera-glass in Ophiuchus, he will find it worth while to sweep over it for what he may pick up, and, in particular, he should look at the group of stars southeast of β and γ. These stars have been shaped into a little modern asterism called Taurus Poniatowskii, and it will be noticed that five of them mark the outlines of a letter V, resembling the well-known figure of the Hyades.

Also look at the stars in the head of Serpens, several of which form a figure like a letter X. A little west of Theta (θ), in the tail of Serpens, is a beautiful swarm of little stars, upon which a field-glass may be used with advantage. The star θ is itself a beautiful double, just within the separating power of a very powerful field-glass under favorable circumstances, the component stars being only about one third of a minute apart.

Do not fail to notice the remarkable subdivisions of the Milky-Way in this neighborhood. Its current seems divided into numerous channels and bays, interspersed with gaps that might be likened to islands, and the star θ appears to be situated upon one of these islands of the galaxy. This complicated structure of the Milky-Way extends downward to the horizon, and upward through the constellation Cygnus, and of its phenomenal appearance in that region we shall have more to say farther on.

Directly north of Ophiuchus is the constellation Hercules, interest-