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diameter of the sun, as seen from the centre of the moon. The mean duration of a revolution of the sun, with regard to the node of the lunar orbit, is to the duration of a synodic revolution (N. 112) of the moon as 223 to 19. So that, after a period of 223 lunar months, the sun and moon would return to the same relative position with regard to the node of the moon's orbit, and therefore the eclipses would recur in the same order were not the periods altered by irregularities in the motions of the sun and moon. In lunar eclipses, our atmosphere bends the sun's rays which pass through it all round into the cone of the earth's shadow. And as the horizontal refraction (N. 113) or bending of the rays surpasses half the sum of the semidiameters of the sun and moon, divided by their mutual distance, the centre of the lunar disc, supposed to be in the axis of the shadow, would receive the rays from the same point of the sun, round all sides of the earth, so that it would be more illuminated than in full moon, if the greater portion of the light were not stopped or absorbed by the atmosphere. Instances are recorded where this feeble light has been entirely absorbed, so that the moon has altogether disappeared in her eclipses.

The sun is eclipsed when the moon intercepts his rays (N. 114). The moon, though incomparably smaller than the sun, is so much nearer the earth, that her apparent diameter differs but little from his, but both are liable to such variations, that they alternately surpass one another. Were the eye of a spectator in the same straight line with the centres of the sun and moon, he would see the sun eclipsed. If the apparent diameter of the moon surpassed that of the sun, the eclipse would be total. If it were less, the observer would see a ring of light round the disc of the moon, and the eclipse would be annular, as it was on the 17th of May, 1836. If the centre of the moon should not be in the straight line joining the centres of the sun and the eye of the observer, the moon might only eclipse a part of the sun. The variation, therefore, in the distances of the sun and moon from the

centre of the earth, and of the moon from her node at the instant of conjunction, occasions great varieties in the solar eclipses. Besides, the height of the moon above the horizon changes her apparent diameter, and may augment or diminish the apparent distances of the centres of the sun and moon, so that an eclipse of the sun may occur to the inhabitants of one country, and not to those of another. In this respect the solar eclipses differ from the lunar, which are the same for every part of the earth where the moon is above the horizon. In solar eclipses, the light reflected by the atmosphere diminishes the obscurity they produce. Even in total eclipses the higher part of the atmosphere is enlightened by a part of the sun's disc, and reflects its rays to the earth. The whole disc of the new moon is frequently visible from atmospheric reflection.

A phenomenon altogether unprecedented occurred during the total eclipse of the sun which happened on the 8th of July, 1842. The moon was like a black patch on the sky, surrounded by a faint whitish light about the eighth of the moon's diameter in breadth, in which three red flames ap peared in form like the teeth of a saw; from what cause they originated, or what they were, is totally unknown.

Planets sometimes eclipse one another. On the 17th of May, 1737, Mercury was eclipsed by Venus near their inferior conjunction; Mars passed over Jupiter on the 9th of January, 1591; and on the 30th of October, 1825, the moon eclipsed Saturn. These phenomena, however, happen very seldom, because all the planets, or even a part of them, are very rarely seen in conjunction at once; that is, in the same part of the heavens at the same time. More than 2500 years before our era, the five great planets were in conjunction. On the 15th of September, 1186, a similar assemblage took place between the constellations of Virgo and Libra; and, in 1801, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus were united in the heart of the Lion. These conjunctions are so rare, that Lalande has computed that more than seventeen millions of

millions of years separate the epochs of the contemporaneous conjunctions of the six great planets.

The motions of the moon have now become of more importance to the navigator and geographer than those of any other heavenly body, from the precision with which terrestrial longitude is determined by occultations of stars, and by lunar distances. In consequence of the retrograde motion of the nodes of the lunar orbit, at the rate of 3′ 10′′-64 daily, these points make a tour of the heavens in a little more than eighteen years and a half. This causes the moon to move round the earth in a kind of spiral, so that her disc at different times passes over every point in a zone of the heavens extending rather more than 5° 9′ on each side of the ecliptic. It is therefore evident, that at one time or other she must eclipse every star and planet she meets with in this space. Therefore the occultation of a star by the moon is a phenomenon of frequent occurrence. The moon seems to pass over the star, which almost instantaneously vanishes at one side of her disc, and after a short time as suddenly reappears on the other. A lunar distance is the observed distance of the moon from the sun, or from a particular star or planet, at any instant. The lunar theory is brought to such perfection, that the times of these phenomena, observed under any meridian, when compared with those computed for Greenwich in the Nautical Almanac, give the longitude of the observer within a few miles (N. 95).

From the lunar theory, the mean distance of the sun from the earth, and thence the whole dimensions of the solar system, are known; for the forces which retain the earth and moon in their orbits are respectively proportional to the radii vectores of the earth and moon, each being divided by the square of its periodic time. And, as the lunar theory gives the ratio of the forces, the ratio of the distances of the sun and moon from the earth is obtained. Hence it appears that the sun's mean distance from the earth is 396 or nearly 400 times greater than that of the moon. The method of

finding the absolute distances of the celestial bodies, in miles, is in fact the same with that employed in measuring the distances of terrestrial objects. From the extremities of a known base (N. 115), the angles which the visual rays from the object form with it are measured; their sum subtracted from two right angles gives the angle opposite the base; therefore, by trigonometry, all the angles and sides of the triangle may be computed-consequently the distance of the object. is found. The angle under which the base of the triangle is seen from the object is the parallax of that object. It evidently increases and decreases with the distance. Therefore the base must be very great indeed to be visible from the celestial bodies. The globe itself, whose dimensions are obtained by actual admeasurement, furnishes a standard of measures with which we compare the distances, masses, densities, and volumes, of the sun and planets.

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SECTION VI.

Form of the Earth and Planets-Figure of a Homogeneous Spheroid in Rotation-Figure of a Spheroid of variable Density-Figure of the Earth, supposing it to be an Ellipsoid of Revolution-Mensuration of a Degree of the Meridian-Compression and Size of the Earth from Degrees of Meridian -Figure of Earth from the Pendulum.

THE theoretical investigation of the figure of the earth and planets is so complicated, that neither the geometry of Newton, nor the refined analysis of La Place, has attained more than an approximation. It is only within a few years that a complete and finite solution of that difficult problem has been accomplished by our distinguished countryman Mr. Ivory. The investigation has been conducted by successive steps, beginning with a simple case, and then proceeding to the more difficult. But, in all, the forces which occasion the revolutions of the earth and planets are omitted, because, by acting equally upon all the particles, they do not disturb their mutual relations. A fluid mass of uniform density, whose particles mutually gravitate to each other, will assume the form of a sphere when at rest. But, if the sphere begins to revolve, every particle will describe a circle (N. 116), having its centre in the axis of revolution. The planes of all these circles will be parallel to one another and perpendicular to the axis, and the particles will have a tendency to fly from that axis in consequence of the centrifugal force arising from the velocity of rotation. The force of gravity is everywhere perpendicular to the surface (N. 117), and tends to the interior of the fluid mass; whereas the centrifugal force acts perpendicularly to the axis of rotation, and is directed to the exterior. And, as its intensity diminishes with the distance from the axis of

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