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the same year, and, in March, 1574, it had entirely disappeared, having exhibited a variety of tints. It is suspected, however, that this star is periodically variable and identical with stars which appeared in the years 945 and 1264. A more recent case occurred in the year 1670, when a new star was discovered in the head of the Swan, which, after becoming invisible, reappeared, and, having undergone many variations in light, vanished after two years, and has never since been seen. On the 28th of April, 1848, Mr. Hind discovered a star of the 5th magnitude in the constellation Ophiuchus, which was very conspicuous to the naked eye, and where he was certain no star even so bright as the 9th magnitude had ever existed, nor was there any record of such a star. From the time of its discovery it continued to diminish till it became extinct. Its colour was ruddy, and was thought to undergo remarkable changes, probably an effect of its low position, as its polar distance was 102° 39' 14".
Sir John Herschel discovered very singular variations in the star
n of the constellation Argo. It is surrounded by a wonderful nebula, and between the years 1677 and 1826 it varied twice from the 4th to the 2nd magnitude ; but in the beginning of 1838 it suddenly increased in lustre, so as to be nearly as bright, as a Centauri. Thence it diminished, but not below the first magnitude till April 1843, when it had again increased, so as to surpass Canopus, and nearly equal Sirius in splendour. With regard to this singular phenomenon, Sir John Herschel observes, that “Temporary stars heretofore recorded have all become totally extinct. Variable stars, as far as they have been carefully attended to, have exhibited periodical and regular alternations (in some degree at least) of splendour and comparative obscurity; but here we have a star fitfully variable to an astonishing extent, and whose fluctuations are spread over centuries, apparently in no settled period, and in no regular progression. What origin can we ascribe to these sudden flashes and relapses ? What conclusions are we to draw as to the comfort or habitability of a system depending for its supply of light and heat on so variable a source ? Its future career will be a subject of high physical interest. To this account I will only add, that in the beginning of 1838 the brightness of this star was so great as materially to interfere with the observations of that part of the nebula surrounding it." Sir John has also discovered that a Orionis is variable, a circum
stance the more remarkable as it is one of the conspicuous stars of our hemisphere, and yet its changes had never been remarked. The inferences Sir John draws from the phenomena of variable stars are too interesting not to be given in his own words. “A periodic change existing to so great an extent in so large and brilliant a star as a Orionis cannot fail to awaken attention to the subject, and to revive the consideration of those speculations respecting the possibility of a change in the lustre of our sun itself, which were first put forth by my father. If there be really a community of nature between the sun and the fixed stars, every proof that we obtain of the extensive prevalence of such periodical changes in those remote bodies adds to the probability of finding something of the kind nearer home. If our sun were ever intrinsically much brighter than at present, the mean temperature of the surface of our globe would of course be proportionally greater. I speak now not of periodical, but secular changes. But the argument is complicated with the consideration of the possible imperfect transparency of space, which may be due to material non-luminous particles, diffused irregularly in patches analogous to nebulæ, but of great extent—to cosmical clouds, in short, of whose existence we have, I think, some indication in the singular and apparently capricious phenomena of temporary stars, and perhaps in the recent extraordinary increase, and hardly less sudden diminution, of n Argûs.” Mr. Hind has come to the same conclusion with Goodricke and Sir John Herschel, that the changes in the variable stars are owing to opaque bodies revolving round them ; indeed there are strong reasons to believe that there are solar systems analogous to our own in the remote regions of space. Our sun requires nine times the period of Algol to perform a revolution on its axis, while, on the other hand, the periodic time of an opaque revolving body, sufficiently large to produce a similar temporary obscuration of the sun seen from a fixed star, would be less than fourteen hours.
It is possible that the decrease of light in some of the variable stars may arise from large spots on their surface, like those occasionally seen in the radiant fluid masses on the surface of the
One of these spots which was measured by Sir John Herschel on the 20th of March, 1836, with its penumbra, occupied an area of 3780 millions of square miles; and the black central part of
a spot that appeared on the 25th of May following would have allowed the globe of the earth to drop through it, leaving a thousand miles clear of contact all around this tremendous abyss.
All the variable stars on record of which the places are distinctly indicated have occurred without exception in, or close upon, the borders of the Milky Way, and that only within the following semicircle, the preceding having offered no example of the kind.
Many stars have actually disappeared from the heavens. 42 Virginis seems to be of the number, having been missed by Sir John Herschel on the 9th of May, 1828, and not again found, though he frequently had occasion to observe that part of the sky. Mr. Cooper, of the Markree Observatory, has given a list of fifty stars that are missing since the publication of his list of stars in 1847. Comparing the present state of the heavens with more ancient catalogues, a much greater number have disappeared.
Thousands of stars that seem to be only brilliant points of light, when carefully examined are found to be in reality systems of two or more suns, many of which are known to revolve about one another. These binary and multiple systems are very remote, requiring powerful telescopes to show the stars separately. They are divided into eight classes, according to the proximity of the two stars. The first class comprises only such as are less than 1" of space apart; those of the second class are more apart than 1" and less than 2", &c. &c. Sometimes the two stars are of equal magnitude, but more frequently a conspicuous star is accompanied by a smaller companion. In some cases the conspicuous star itself is double, as in & Cancri, & Scorpio, 11 Monocerotis, and 12 Lyncis, which are triple stars. Each of the two stars of eLyræ is a beautiful and close double star; so that which in a common telescope appears merely to be a double star, is found to be quadruple with a very excellent instrument. The multiple system of A Orionis is one of the most remarkable objects in our hemisphere. To the naked eye and with an ordinary telescope it seems to be a single star, but it really consists of four brilliant stars forming a trapezium, and accompanied by two excessively minute and very close companions, to perceive both of which is the severest test of a telescope.
The first catalogue of double stars in which their places and relative positions are given was accomplished by the talent and industry of Sir William Herschel, who made so many great dis
coveries, and with whom the idea of their combination in binary and multiple systems originated ; and that important fact he established by the discovery of a revolving motion in 50 or 60, and by the determination of the revolution of one star about the other of Castor or a Geminorum, the largest and finest double star in the northern hemisphere. He even assigned the approximate periodic times of this and of several other binary systems. More than 100 stars are now known to be stellar systems. The positions of many hundreds were measured by Sir John Herschel and Sir James South ; and the catalogue of the double stars in the northern hemisphere, which have been micrometrically measured, has been increased to more than 6000 by MM. Bessel, Struve, and British astronomers.
Extensive catalogues of double stars in the southern hemisphere have been published by the astronomers in our colonial establishments. To these Sir John Herschel added 1081 during his residence at the Cape of Good Hope: the angles of position and distances of the stars from one another he measured, and found that many of them have very rapid orbital motions. The elliptical elements of the orbits and periodic times of fifteen have been determined by the most eminent astronomers with wonderful accuracy, considering the enormous distances and the extreme delicacy and difficulty of the subject. M. Savary has the merit of having first determined the elements of the orbit of a double star from observation. The difficulty of doing so is great, because the nearest fixed star is 211,000 times farther from the sun than the earth is, and the orbit itself is only visible with the best telescopes; consequently a very small error in observation occasions an enormous error in the determination of quantities at that distance.
In observing the relative position of the stars of a binary system, the distance between them, and also the angle of position, that is, the angle which the meridian, or a parallel to the equator, makes with the line joining the two stars, are measured. The different values of the angle of position show whether the revolving star moves from east to west, or the contrary ; whether the motion be uniform or variable, and at what points it is greatest or least. The measures of the distances show whether the two stars approach or recede from one another. From these the form and nature of the orbit are determined. Were observations
perfectly accurate, four values of the angle of position, and of the corresponding distances at given epochs, would be sufficient to assign the form and position of the curve described by the revolving star ; this, however, scarcely ever happens.
The accuracy of each result depends upon taking the mean of a great number of the best observations, and eliminating error by mutual comparison. The distances between the stars are so minute that they cannot be measured with the same accuracy as the angles of position ; therefore, in order to determine the orbit of a star independently of the distance, it is necessary to assume, as the most probable hypothesis, that the stars are subject to the law of gravitation, and consequently that one of the two stars revolves in an ellipse about the other, supposed to be at rest, though not necessarily in the focus. A curve is thus constructed graphically by means of the angles of position and the corresponding times of observation. The angular velocities of the stars are obtained by drawing tangents to this curve at stated intervals, whence the apparent distances, or radii vectores of the revolving star, become known for each angle of position, because, by the laws of elliptical motion, they are equal to the square roots of the apparent angular velocities. Now that the angles of position estimated from a given line, and the corresponding distances of the two stars, are known, another curve may be drawn, which will represent on paper the actual orbit of the star projected on the visible surface of the heavens; so that the elliptical elements of the true orbit, and its position in space, may be determined by a combined system of measurements and computation. But, as this orbit has been obtained on the hypothesis that gravitation prevails in these distant regions, which could not be known à priori, it must be compared with as many observations as can be obtained, to ascertain how far the computed ellipse agrees with the curve actually described by the star.
y Virginis consists of two stars of nearly the same magnitude ; they were so far apart in the beginning and middle of last century, that they were mentioned by Bradley, and marked in Mayer's catalogue, as two distinct stars. Since that time they have been continually approaching each other, till in January, 1836, one star was seen to eclipse the other, by Admiral Smyth at his Ohservatory at Bedford, and by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope. A series of observations since the beginning of the