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completely established, but which has since received additional confirmation from those of his son and Sir James South, the former of whom, as well as Professor Struve of Dorpat, have added many thousands to their numbers. The motions of revolution round a common centre of many have been clearly established, and their periods determined with considerable accuracy. Some have already since their first discovery accomplished nearly a whole revolution, and one, if the latest observations can be depended on, is actually considerably advanced in its second period. These interesting systems thus present a species of sidereal chronometer, by which the chronology of the heavens will be marked out to future ages by epochs of their own, liable to no fluctuations from planetary disturbances such as obtain in our system.

Possibly among the multitudes of small stars, whether double or insulated, some may be found near enough to exhibit distinct parallactic motions, or perhaps something approaching to planetary motion, which may prove that solar attraction is not confined to our system, or may lead to the discovery of the proper motion of the sun. The double stars are of various hues, but most frequently exhibit the contrasted colours. The large star is generally yellow, orange, or red; and the small star blue, purple, or green. Sometimes a white star is combined with a blue or purple, and more rarely a red and white are united. In many cases, these appearances are due to the influences of contrast on our judgment of colours. For example, in observing a double star where the large one is of a full ruby red, or almost blood colour, and the small one a fine green, the latter lost its colour when the former was hid by the cross wires of the telescope. But there are a vast number of instances where the colours are too strongly marked to be merely imaginary. Mr. Herschel observes in one of his papers in the Philosophical Transactions, as a very remarkable fact, that although red single stars are common enough, no example of an insulated blue, green, or purple one has as yet been produced.

In some parts of the heavens, the stars are so near together as to form clusters, which to the unassisted eye appear like thin white clouds such is the milky way, which has its brightness

from the diffused light of myriads of stars. Many of these clouds, however, are never resolved into separate stars, even by the highest magnifying powers. This nebulous matter

No fewer than 2500

exists in vast abundance in space. nebula were observed by Sir William Herschel, whose places have been computed from his observations, reduced to a common epoch, and arranged into a catalogue in order of right ascension by his sister Miss Caroline Herschel, a lady so justly celebrated for astronomical knowledge and discovery. The nature and use of this matter scattered over the heavens in such a variety of forms is involved in the greatest obscurity. That it is a self-luminous, phosphorescent material substance, in a highly dilated or gaseous state, but gradually subsiding by the mutual gravitation of its particles into stars and sidereal systems, is the hypothesis which seems to be most generally received; but the only way that any real knowledge on this mysterious subject can be obtained, is by the determination of the form, place, and present state of each individual nebula, and a comparison of these with future observations will show generations to come the changes that may now be going on in these rudiments of future systems. With this view, Mr. Herschel is now engaged in the difficult and laborious investigation, which is understood to be nearly approaching its completion, and the results of which we may therefore hope ere long to see made public. The most conspicuous of these appearances are found in Orion, and in the girdle of Andromeda. It is probable that light must be millions of years travelling to the earth from some of the nebulæ.

So numerous are the objects which meet our view in the heavens, that we cannot imagine a part of space where some light would not strike the eye: but as the fixed stars would not be visible at such distances, if they did not shine by their own light, it is reasonable to infer that they are suns; and if so, they are in all probability attended by systems of opaque bodies, revolving about them as the planets do about ours. But although there be no proof that planets not seen by us revolve about these remote suns, certain it is, that there are many invisible bodies wandering in space, which, occasionally coming within the sphere of the earth's attraction, are ignited by the

velocity with which they pass through the atmosphere, and are precipitated with great violence on the earth. The obliquity of the descent of meteorites, the peculiar matter of which they are composed, and the explosion with which their fall is invariably accompanied, show that they are foreign to our planet. Luminous spots altogether independent of the phases have occasionally appeared on the dark part of the moon, which have been ascribed to the light arising from the eruption of volcanoes; whence it has been supposed that meteorites have been projected from the moon by the impetus of volcanic eruption; it has even been computed, that if a stone were projected from the moon in a vertical line, and with an initial velocity of 10992 feet in a second, which is more than four times the velocity of a ball when first discharged from a cannon, instead of falling back to the moon by the attraction of gravity, it would come within the sphere of the earth's attraction, and revolve about it like a satellite. These bodies, impelled either by the direction of the primitive impulse, or by the disturbing action of the sun, might ultimately penetrate the earth's atmosphere, and arrive at its surface. But from whatever source meteoric stones may come, it seems highly probable, that they have a common origin, from the uniformity, we may almost say identity, of their chemical composition.

The known quantity of matter bears a very small proportion to the immensity of space. Large as the bodies are, the distances that separate them are immeasurably greater; but as design is manifest in every part of creation, it is probable that if the various systems in the universe had been nearer to one another, their mutual disturbances would have been inconsistent with the harmony and stability of the whole. It is clear that space is not pervaded by atmospheric air, since its resistance would long ere this have destroyed the velocity of the planets; neither can we affirm it to be void, when it is traversed in all directions by light, heat, gravitation, and possibly by influences of which we can form no idea; but whether it be replete with an ethereal medium, time alone will show.

Though totally ignorant of the laws which obtain in the more distant regions of creation, we are assured, that one alone regulates the motions of our own system; and as general laws

form the ultimate object of philosophical research, we cannot conclude these remarks without considering the nature of that extraordinary power, whose effects we have been endeavouring to trace through some of their mazes. It was at one time imagined, that the acceleration in the moon's mean motion was occasioned by the successive transmission of the gravitating force; but it has been proved, that, in order to produce this effect, its velocity must be about fifty millions of times greater than that of light, which flies at the rate of 200000 miles in a second: its action even at the distance of the sun may therefore be regarded as instantaneous; yet so remote are the nearest of the fixed stars, that it may be doubted whether the sun has any sensible influence on them.

The analytical expression for the gravitating force is a straight line; the curves in which the celestial bodies move by the force of gravitation are only lines of the second order; the attraction of spheroids according to any other law would be much more complicated; and as it is easy to prove that matter might have been moved according to an infinite variety of laws, it may be concluded, that gravitation must have been selected by Divine wisdom out of an infinity of other laws, as being the most simple, and that which gives the greatest stability to the celestial motions.

It is a singular result of the simplicity of the laws of nature, which admit only of the observation and comparison of ratios, that the gravitation and theory of the motions of the celestial bodies are independent of their absolute magnitudes and distances; consequently if all the bodies in the solar system, their mutual distances, and their velocities, were to diminish proportionally, they would describe curves in all respects similar to those in which they now move; and the system might be successively reduced to the smallest sensible dimensions, and still exhibit the same appearances. Experience shows that a very different law of attraction prevails when the particles of matter are placed within inappreciable distances from each other, as in chemical and capillary attractions, and the attraction of cohesion; whether it be a modification of gravity, or that some new and unknown power comes into action, does not appear; but as a change in the law of the force takes place at one end of the scale, it is

possible that gravitation may not remain the same at the immense distance of the fixed stars. Perhaps the day may come when even gravitation, no longer regarded as an ultimate principle, may be resolved into a yet more general cause, embracing every law that regulates the material world.

The action of the gravitating force is not impeded by the intervention even of the densest substances. If the attraction of the sun for the centre of the earth, and for the hemisphere diametrically opposite to him, was diminished by a difficulty in penetrating the interposed matter, the tides would be more obviously affected. Its attraction is the same also, whatever the substances of the celestial bodies may be, for if the action of the sun on the earth differed by a millionth part from his action on the moon, the difference would occasion a variation in the sun's parallax amounting to several seconds, which is proved to be impossible by the agreement of theory with observation. Thus all matter is pervious to gravitation, and is equally attracted by it.

As far as human knowledge goes, the intensity of gravitation has never varied within the limits of the solar system; nor does even analogy lead us to expect that it should; on the contrary, there is every reason to be assured, that the great laws of the universe are immutable like their Author. Not only the sun and planets, but the minutest particles in all the varieties of their attractions and repulsions, nay even the imponderable matter of the electric, galvanic, and magnetic fluids are obedient to permanent laws, though we may not be able in every case to resolve their phenomena into general principles. Nor can we suppose the structure of the globe alone to be exempt from the universal fiat, though ages may pass before the changes it has undergone, or that are now in progress, can be referred to existing causes with the same certainty with which the motions of the planets and all their secular variations are referable to the law of gravitation. The traces of extreme antiquity perpetually occurring to the geologist, give that information as to the origin of things which we in vain look for in the other parts of the universe. They date the beginning of time; since there is every reason to believe, that


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