Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/507

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503
A FAMOUS ASTRONOMICAL PROBLEM

The reader should be cautioned against obtaining the impression that Seeliger's two ellipsoids represent the truth as to the law of distribution of density, for such is not the case. A very large number of ellipsoids, doubtless decreasing rapidly in density as one proceeds from the sun outward, would be required to represent the actual law. Seeliger found that the attractive effect of the mass inside of the ellipsoid with maximum radius 0.24 was essentially independent of the law of distribution; and for convenience in the computations he therefore assumed the density in the said ellipsoid to be uniform. A solution based upon a greater number of constituent ellipsoids would perhaps be a slight improvement.

The logic of Seeliger's work rests finally upon the reasonableness of his assumptions and deductions concerning the distribution and density of the zodiacal-light materials; and these are not out of harmony with the meager knowledge of the zodiacal light which we have obtained by direct observation.

In consequence of Seeliger's results further direct observations of the zodiacal light take on renewed interest.