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London. In the year 1819, Captain Parry, in his voyage to discover the north-west passage round America, sailed directly over the magnetic pole; and in 1824, Captain Lyon, when on an expedition for the same purpose, found that the variation of the compass was 37° 30' west, and that the magnetic pole was then situate in 63° 26′ 51′′ north latitude, and in 80° 51' 25" west longitude. It appears however from later researches that the law of terrestrial magnetism is of considerable complication, and the existence of more than one magnetic pole in either hemisphere has been rendered highly probable. The needle is also subject to diurnal variations; in our latitudes it moves slowly westward from about three in the morning till two, and returns to its former position in the evening.

A needle suspended so as only to be moveable in the vertical plane, dips or becomes more and more inclined to the horizon the nearer it is brought to the magnetic pole. Captain Lyon found that the dip in the latitude and longitude mentioned was 86° 32'. What properties the planets may have in this respect, it is impossible to know, but it is probable that the moon has become highly magnetic, in consequence of her proximity to the earth, and because her greatest diameter always points towards it.

The passage of comets has never sensibly disturbed the stability of the solar system; their nucleus is rare, and their transit so rapid, that the time has not been long enough to admit of a sufficient accumulation of impetus to produce a perceptible effect. The comet of 1770 passed within 80000 miles of the earth without even affecting our tides, and swept through the midst of Jupiter's satellites without deranging the motions of those little moons. Had the mass of that comet been equal to the mass of the earth, its disturbing action would have shortened the year by the ninth of a day; but, as Delambre's computations from the Greenwich observations of the sun, show that the length of the year has not been sensibly affected by the approach of the comet, La Place proved that its mass could not be so much as the 5000th part of that of the earth. The paths of comets have every possible inclination to the plane of the ecliptic, and unlike the planets, their motion is frequently retrograde. Comets are only visible when near

their perihelia. Then their velocity is such that its square is twice as great as that of a body moving in a circle at the same distance; they consequently remain a very short time within the planetary orbits; and as all the conic sections of the same focal distance sensibly coincide through a small arc on each side of the extremity of their axis, it is difficult to ascertain in which of these curves the comets move, from observations made, as they necessarily must be, at their perihelia: but probably they all move in extremely eccentric ellipses, although, in most cases, the parabolic curve coincides most nearly with their observed motions. Even if the orbit be determined with all the accuracy that the case admits of, it may be difficult, or even impossible, to recognise a comet on its return, because its orbit would be very much changed if it passed near any of the large planets of this or of any other system, in consequence of their disturbing energy, which would be very great on bodies of so rare a nature. Halley and Clairaut predicted that, in consequence of the attraction of Jupiter and Saturn, the return of the comet of 1759 would be retarded 618 days, which was verified by the event as nearly as could be expected.

The nebulous appearance of comets is perhaps occasioned by the vapours which the solar heat raises at their surfaces in their passage at the perihelia, and which are again condensed as they recede from the sun. The comet of 1680 when in its perihelion was only at the distance of one-sixth of the sun's diameter, or about 148000 miles from its surface; it consequently would be exposed to a heat 27500 times greater than that received by the earth. As the sun's heat is supposed to be in proportion to the intensity of his light, it is probable that a degree of heat so very intense would be sufficient to convert into vapour every terrestrial substance with which we are acquainted.

In those positions of comets where only half of their enlightened hemisphere ought to be seen, they exhibit no phases even when viewed with high magnifying powers. Some slight indications however were once observed by Hevelius and La Hire in 1682; and in 1811 Sir William Herschel discovered a small luminous point, which he concluded to be the disc of the comet. In general their masses are so minute,

that they have no sensible diameters, the nucleus being principally formed of denser strata of the nebulous matter, but so rare that stars have been seen through them. The transit of a comet over the sun's disc would afford the best information on this point. It was computed that such an event was to take place in the year 1827; unfortunately the sun was hid by clouds in this country, but it was observed at Viviers and at Marseilles at the time the comet must have been on it, but no spot was seen. The tails are often of very great length, and are generally situate in the planes of their orbits; they follow them in their descent towards the sun, but precede them in their return, with a small degree of curvature; but their extent and form must vary in appearance, according to the position of their orbits with regard to the ecliptic. The tail of the comet of 1680 appeared, at Paris, to extend over sixty-two degrees. The matter of which the tail is composed must be extremely buoyant to precede a body moving with such velocity; indeed the rapidity of its ascent cannot be accounted for. The nebulous part of comets diminishes every time they return to their perihelia; after frequent returns they ought to lose it altogether, and present the appearance of a fixed nucleus; this ought to happen sooner in comets of short periods. La Place supposes that the comet of 1682 must be approaching rapidly to that state. Should the substances be altogether or even to a great degree evaporated, the comet will disappear for ever. Possibly comets may have vanished from our view sooner than they otherwise would have done from this cause. Of about six hundred comets that have been seen at different times, three are now perfectly ascertained to form part of our system; that is to say, they return to the sun at intervals of 76, 61, and 31 years nearly.

A hundred and forty comets have appeared within the earth's orbit during the last century that have not again been seen; if a thousand years be allowed as the average period of each, it may be computed by the theory of probabilities, that the whole number that range within the earth's orbit must be 1400; but Uranus being twenty times more distant, there may be no less than 11,200,000 comets that come within the known extent of our system. In such a multitude of wandering bodies

t is just possible that one of them may come in collision with the earth; but even if it should, the mischief would be local, and the equilibrium soon restored. It is however more probable that the earth would only be deflected a little from its course by the near approach of the comet, without being touched. Great as the number of comets appears to be, it is absolutely nothing when compared to the number of the fixed stars. About two thousand only are visible to the naked eye, but when we view the heavens with a telescope, their number seems to be limited only by the imperfection of the instrument. In one quarter of an hour Sir William Herschel estimated that 116000 stars passed through the field of his telescope, which subtended an angle of 15'. This however was stated as a specimen of extraordinary crowding; but at an average the whole expanse of the heavens must exhibit about a hundred millions of fixed stars that come within the reach of telescopic vision.

Many of the stars have a very small progressive motion, especially Cassiopeia and 61 Cygni, both small stars; and, as the sun is decidedly a star, it is an additional reason for supposing the solar system to be in motion. The distance of the fixed stars is too great to admit of their exhibiting a sensible disc; but in all probability they are spherical, and must certainly be so, if gravitation pervades all space. With a fine telescope they appear like a point of light; their twinkling arises from sudden changes in the refractive power of the air, which would not be sensible if they had discs like the planets. Thus we can learn nothing of the relative distances of the stars from us and from one another, by their apparent diameters; but their annual parallax being insensible, shows that we must be one hundred millions of millions of miles from the nearest; many of them however must be vastly more remote, for of two stars that appear close together, one may be far beyond the other in the depth of space. The light of Sirius, according to the observations of Mr. Herschel, is 324 times greater than that of a star of the sixth magnitude; if we suppose the two to be really of the same size, their distances from us must be in the ratio of 57.3 to 1, because light diminishes as the square of the distance of the luminous body increases.

Of the absolute magnitude of the stars, nothing is known, only that many of them must be much larger than the sun, from the quantity of light emitted by them. Dr. Wollaston determined the approximate ratio that the light of a wax candle bears to that of the sun, moon, and stars, by comparing their respective images reflected from small glass globes filled with mercury, whence a comparison was established between the quantities of light emitted by the celestial bodies themselves. By this method he found that the light of the sun is about twenty millions of millions of times greater than that of Sirius, the brightest, and supposed to be the nearest of the fixed stars. If Sirius had a parallax of half a second, its distance from the earth would be 525481 times the distance of the sun from the earth; and therefore Sirius, placed where the sun is, would appear to us to be 3.7 times as large as the sun, and would give 13.8 times more light; but many of the fixed stars must be immensely greater than Sirius. Sometimes stars have all at once appeared, shone with a brilliant light, and then vanished. In 1572 a star was discovered in Cassiopeia, which rapidly increased in brightness till it even surpassed that of Jupiter; it then gradually diminished in splendour, and after exhibiting all the variety of tints that indicates the changes of combustion, vanished sixteen months after its discovery, without altering its position. It is impossible toimagine any thing more tremendous than a conflagration that could be visible at such a distance. Some stars are periodic, possibly from the intervention of opaque bodies revolv ing about them, or from extensive spots on their surfaces. Many thousands of stars that seem to be only brilliant points, when carefully examined are found to be in reality systems of two or more suns revolving about a common centre. These double and multiple stars are extremely remote, requiring the most powerful telescopes to show them separately.

The first catalogue of double stars in which their places and relative positions are determined, was accomplished by the talents and industry of Sir William Herschel, to whom astronomy is indebted for so many brilliant discoveries, and with whom originated the idea of their combination in binary and multiple systems, an idea which his own observations had

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