his head against the bottom of the cask. The world went

Doubt and Doubtpower2023-12-07 12:40:06 67 6

Olbers's explosion theory, long accepted by astronomers, has been proven open to fatal objections. The minor planets are now believed to represent a ring of cosmical matter, cast off from the solar nebula like the rings that went to form the major planets, but prevented from becoming aggregated into a single body by the perturbing mass of Jupiter.

his head against the bottom of the cask. The world went

As we have seen, the discovery of the first asteroid confirmed a conjecture; the other important planetary discovery of the nineteenth century fulfilled a prediction. Neptune was found through scientific prophecy. No one suspected the existence of a trans-Uranian planet till Uranus itself, by hair-breadth departures from its predicted orbit, gave out the secret. No one saw the disturbing planet till the pencil of the mathematician, with almost occult divination, had pointed out its place in the heavens. The general predication of a trans-Uranian planet was made by Bessel, the great Konigsberg astronomer, in 1840; the analysis that revealed its exact location was undertaken, half a decade later, by two independent workers--John Couch Adams, just graduated senior wrangler at Cambridge, England, and U. J. J. Leverrier, the leading French mathematician of his generation.

his head against the bottom of the cask. The world went

Adams's calculation was first begun and first completed. But it had one radical defect--it was the work of a young and untried man. So it found lodgment in a pigeon-hole of the desk of England's Astronomer Royal, and an opportunity was lost which English astronomers have never ceased to mourn. Had the search been made, an actual planet would have been seen shining there, close to the spot where the pencil of the mathematician had placed its hypothetical counterpart. But the search was not made, and while the prophecy of Adams gathered dust in that regrettable pigeon-hole, Leverrier's calculation was coming on, his tentative results meeting full encouragement from Arago and other French savants. At last the laborious calculations proved satisfactory, and, confident of the result, Leverrier sent to the Berlin observatory, requesting that search be made for the disturber of Uranus in a particular spot of the heavens. Dr. Galle received the request September 23, 1846. That very night he turned his telescope to the indicated region, and there, within a single degree of the suggested spot, he saw a seeming star, invisible to the unaided eye, which proved to be the long-sought planet, henceforth to be known as Neptune. To the average mind, which finds something altogether mystifying about abstract mathematics, this was a feat savoring of the miraculous.

his head against the bottom of the cask. The world went

Stimulated by this success, Leverrier calculated an orbit for an interior planet from perturbations of Mercury, but though prematurely christened Vulcan, this hypothetical nursling of the sun still haunts the realm of the undiscovered, along with certain equally hypothetical trans-Neptunian planets whose existence has been suggested by "residual perturbations" of Uranus, and by the movements of comets. No other veritable additions of the sun's planetary family have been made in our century, beyond the finding of seven small moons, which chiefly attest the advance in telescopic powers. Of these, the tiny attendants of our Martian neighbor, discovered by Professor Hall with the great Washington refractor, are of greatest interest, because of their small size and extremely rapid flight. One of them is poised only six thousand miles from Mars, and whirls about him almost four times as fast as he revolves, seeming thus, as viewed by the Martian, to rise in the west and set in the east, and making the month only one-fourth as long as the day.

The discovery of the inner or crape ring of Saturn, made simultaneously in 1850 by William C. Bond, at the Harvard observatory, in America, and the Rev. W. R. Dawes in England, was another interesting optical achievement; but our most important advances in knowledge of Saturn's unique system are due to the mathematician. Laplace, like his predecessors, supposed these rings to be solid, and explained their stability as due to certain irregularities of contour which Herschel bad pointed out. But about 1851 Professor Peirce, of Harvard, showed the untenability of this conclusion, proving that were the rings such as Laplace thought them they must fall of their own weight. Then Professor J. Clerk-Maxwell, of Cambridge, took the matter in hand, and his analysis reduced the puzzling rings to a cloud of meteoric particles--a "shower of brickbats"--each fragment of which circulates exactly as if it were an independent planet, though of course perturbed and jostled more or less by its fellows. Mutual perturbations, and the disturbing pulls of Saturn's orthodox satellites, as investigated by Maxwell, explain nearly all the phenomena of the rings in a manner highly satisfactory.

After elaborate mathematical calculations covering many pages of his paper entitled "On the Stability of Saturn's Rings," he summarizes his deductions as follows:

"Let us now gather together the conclusions we have been able to draw from the mathematical theory of various kinds of conceivable rings.

"We found that the stability of the motion of a solid ring depended on so delicate an adjustment, and at the same time so unsymmetrical a distribution of mass, that even if the exact conditions were fulfilled, it could scarcely last long, and, if it did, the immense preponderance of one side of the ring would be easily observed, contrary to experience. These considerations, with others derived from the mechanical structure of so vast a body, compel us to abandon any theory of solid rings.



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