Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/502

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

images on the plate to move, slowly with short-focus and rapidly with long-focus cameras, thus drawing them out into trails. With the longer instrument here described, an eight-minute exposure would in general be no more effective than one of four minutes. The most successful instrument for the search in question must compromise between the advantage of long focus in reducing sky density, and the disadvantage of long focus in producing long trails. Shorter exposures, giving shorter trails, may be provided by increasing the diameter of the lens, but this in turn means greater unavoidable optical aberrations in the outer areas of the region photographed, which is a reduction in efficiency. In this as in all instruments, extensive experience and good judgment must combine to decide upon the best compromise-proportions.

Professor Pickering, of Harvard, and Mr. Abbot, of the Smithsonian Institution, used such cameras at the total solar eclipse of 1900. The latter observer was favored with good conditions, in North Carolina, and he secured one photograph of a considerable area surrounding the eclipsed sun. Quite a number of the stars known to exist in this region were photographed; but in the absence of a duplicate photograph of the same region, he could not decide whether certain apparent images on the plate were due to unknown planets, or were defects such as always exist in photographic films.

At the eclipse of 1901, in Sumatra, Mr. Abbot, of the Smithsonian Expedition, and Mr. Perrine, in charge of the Crocker Expedition from the Lick Observatory, were prepared, with four cameras each, to secure duplicate photographs covering a large area extending east and west from the sun. Conditions were unfortunately against the success of Mr. Abbot's plans, but thin clouds at the time of the eclipse let 25 per cent, of the light come through to Mr. Perrine's photographic plates. The area covered in duplicate was 6° x 38°, extending along the direction of the sun's equator, with the sun in the center of the region. The plates recorded 170 well-known stars; and all apparent images not of ordinary stars were proved by the duplicate plates to be defects in the films. In two thirds of the area stars down to the eighth magnitude and many fainter ones were recorded; and in one third the area, covered with thicker clouds, stars were recorded down to the fifth and sixth magnitudes.

At the eclipse of 1905 Mr, Crocker made it possible for me to organize expeditions to Labrador, Spain and Egypt, each equipped with four intramercurial cameras, in addition to apparatus for other lines of research. The details of the twelve cameras were planned by Dr. Perrine, the instruments were constructed under his supervision, and any photographic plates obtained with them at the three stations were to be assigned to him to examine for possible intramercurial-planet images. The Labrador group of four cameras, mounted at the