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have the same velocity, whether it moved in the circular or elliptical orbit, since the curves coincide in these points. But, in every other part, the elliptical, or true motion (N. 44), would either be faster or slower than the circular or mean motion (N. 45). As it is necessary to have some fixed point in the heavens from whence to estimate these motions, the vernal equinox (N. 46) at a given epoch has been chosen. The equinoctial, which is a great circle traced in the starry heavens by the imaginary extension of the plane of the terrestrial equator, is intersected by the ecliptic, or apparent path of the sun, in two points diametrically opposite to one another, called the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The vernal equinox is the point through which the sun passes in going from the southern to the northern hemisphere; and the autumnal, that in which he crosses from the northern to the southern. The mean or circular motion of a body, estimated from the vernal equinox, is its mean longitude; and its elliptical, or true motion, reckoned from that point, is its true longitude (N. 47): both being estimated from west to east, the direction in which the bodies move. The difference between the two is called the equation of the centre (N. 48); which consequently vanishes at the apsides (N. 49), or extremities of the major axis, and is at its maximum ninety degrees (N. 50) distant from these points, or in quadratures (N. 51), where it measures the excentricity (N. 52) of the orbit; so that the place of the planet in its elliptical orbit is obtained by adding or subtracting the equation of the centre to or from its mean longitude.

The orbits of the planets have a very small obliquity or inclination (N. 53) to the plane of the ecliptic in which the earth moves; and, on that account, astronomers refer their motions to this plane at a given epoch as a known and fixed position. The angular distance of a planet from the plane of the ecliptic is its latitude (N. 54); which is south or north, according as the planet is south or north of that plane. When the planet is in the plane of the ecliptic, its latitude

is zero: it is then said to be in its nodes (N. 55). The ascending node is that point in the ecliptic through which the planet passes, in going from the southern to the northern hemisphere. The descending node is a corresponding point in the plane of the ecliptic diametrically opposite to the other, through which the planet descends in going from the northern to the southern hemisphere. The longitude and latitude of a planet cannot be obtained by direct observation, but are deduced from observations made at the surface of the earth, by a very simple computation. These two quantities, however, will not give the place of a planet in space. Its distance from the sun (N. 56) must also be known; and, for the complete determination of its elliptical motion, the nature and position of its orbit must be ascertained by observation. This depends upon seven quantities, called the elements of the orbit (N. 57). These are, the length of the major axis, and the excentricity, which determine the form of the orbit; the longitude of the planet when at its least distance from the sun, called the longitude of the perihelion; the inclination of the orbit to the plane of the ecliptic, and the longitude of its ascending node; these give the position of the orbit in space; but the periodic time, and the longitude of the planet at a given instant, called the longitude of the epoch, are necessary for finding the place of the body in its orbit at all times. A perfect knowledge of these seven elements is requisite for ascertaining all the circumstances of undisturbed elliptical motion. By such means it is found, that the paths of the planets, when their mutual disturbances are omitted, are ellipses nearly approaching to circles, whose planes, slightly inclined to the ecliptic, cut it in straight lines, passing through the centre of the sun (N. 58). The orbits of the recently discovered planets deviate more from the ecliptic than those of the ancient planets: that of Pallas, for instance, has an inclination of 34° 37′ 50-2′′ to it; on which account it is more difficult to determine their motions.

Were the planets attracted by the sun only, they would always move in ellipses, invariable in form and position; and because his action is proportional to his mass, which is much larger than that of all the planets put together, the elliptical is the nearest approximation to their true motions. The true motions of the planets are extremely complicated, consequence of their mutual attraction; so that they do not move in any known or symmetrical curve, but in paths now approaching to, now receding from, the elliptical form; and their radii vectores do not describe areas or spaces exactly proportional to the time, so that the areas become a test of disturbing forces.


To determine the motion of each body, when disturbed by all the rest, is beyond the power of analysis. It is therefore necessary to estimate the disturbing action of one planet at a time, whence the celebrated problem of the three bodies, originally applied to the moon, the earth, and the sun; namely, the masses being given of three bodies projected from three given points, with velocities given both in quantity and direction; and, supposing the bodies to gravitate to one another with forces that are directly as their masses, and inversely as the squares of the distances, to find the lines described by these bodies, and their positions at any given instant: or, in other words, to determine the path of a celestial body when attracted by a second body, and disturbed in its motion round the second body by a third-a problem equally applicable to planets, satellites, and comets.

By this problem the motions of translation of the celestial bodies are determined. It is an extremely difficult one, and would be infinitely more so, if the disturbing action were not very small when compared with the central force; that is, if the action of the planets on one another were not very small when compared with that of the sun. As the disturbing influence of each body may be found separately, it is assumed that the action of the whole system, in disturbing any one planet, is equal to the sum of all the particular dis

turbances it experiences, on the general mechanical principle, that the sum of any number of small oscillations is nearly equal to their simultaneous and joint effect.

On account of the reciprocal action of matter, the stability of the system depends upon the intensity of the primitive momentum (N. 59) of the planets, and the ratio of their masses to that of the sun; for the nature of the conic sections in which the celestial bodies move depends upon the velocity with which they were first propelled in space. Had that velocity been such as to make the planets move in orbits of unstable equilibrium (N. 60), their mutual attractions might have changed them into parabolas, or even hyperbolas (N. 22); so that the earth and planets might, ages ago, have been sweeping far from our sun through the abyss of space. But as the orbits differ very little from circles, the momentum of the planet, when projected, must have been exactly sufficient to ensure the permanency and stability of the system. Besides, the mass of the sun is vastly greater than that of any planet; and, as their inequalities bear the same ratio to their elliptical motions that their masses do to that of the sun, their mutual disturbances only increase or diminish the excentricities of their orbits by very minute quantities; consequently the magnitude of the sun's mass is the principal cause of the stability of the system. There is not in the physical world a more splendid example of the adaptation of means to the accomplishment of an end, than is exhibited in the nice adjustment of these forces, at once the cause of the variety and of the order of Nature.


Perturbations, Periodic and Secular-Disturbing Action equivalent to three Partial Forces-Tangential Force the cause of the Periodic Inequalities in Longitude, and Secular Inequalities in the Form and Position of the Orbit in its own Plane-Radial Force the cause of Variations in the Planet's Distance from the Sun-It combines with the Tangential Force to produce the Secular Variations in the Form and Position of the Orbit in its own Plane-Perpendicular Force the cause of Periodic Perturbations in Latitude, and Secular Variations in the Position of the Orbit with regard to the Plane of the Ecliptic-Mean Motion and Major Axis Invariable-Stability of System-Effects of a Resisting Medium-Invariable Plane of the Solar System and of the Universe-Great Inequality of Jupiter and Saturn.

THE planets are subject to disturbances of two kinds, both resulting from the constant operation of their reciprocal attraction: one kind, depending upon their positions with regard to each other, begins from zero, increases to a maximum, decreases, and becomes zero again, when the planets return to the same relative positions. In consequence of these, the disturbed planet is sometimes drawn away from the sun, sometimes brought nearer to him: sometimes it is accelerated in its motion, and sometimes retarded. At one time it is drawn above the plane of its orbit, at another time below it, according to the position of the disturbing body. All such changes, being accomplished in short periods, some in a few months, others in years, or in hundreds of years, are denominated periodic inequalities. The inequalities of the other kind, though occasioned likewise by the disturbing energy of the planets, are entirely independent of their relative positions. They depend upon the relative positions of the orbits alone, whose forms and places in space are altered by very minute quan

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