« السابقةمتابعة »
should be kept in view for a considerable time, that the eye may acquire the habit of seeing such objects distinctly. The observer may next proceed to the beautiful triple star in Monoceros; by this time, both the eye and the telescope will be in a measure prepared for a still finer picture, which is n in Corona Borealis.
THE NEBULA IN THE SWORD-HANDLE OF ORION.
Orion's beams! Orion's beams !
And gloomy gulfs of mystic shade. The most remarkable nebula in the heavens, is that in the sword-handle of Orion. (See the engraving). Its irregularity of form suggests a resemblance to the head of a monstrous animal, with two horns of unequal lengths making a considerable angle with each other, the lower one having an easterly direction; an unequal brilliancy occurs throughout, as though one part was formed of accumulated luminous matter assuming, in some places the appearance of solidity : those parts which mark the outline of the mouth and eye of the fancied animal, may be better described by comparing them to deep indented bays, nearly of a quadrangular figure, well defined, and by its brightness, giving an intensity to the darkness of the sky that it surrounds, which in these openings (probably by contrast) appears of an unusual blackness. The brightest part has by no means a uniform aspect, but exhibits an unevenness, not unlike fleecy clouds, of a cirrus or mottled appearance, as if undergoing some change of separation. This bright region in some directions is abruptly terminated, and beyond it is seen a fainter region of nebulosity, while other parts gradually fade into that which is more diluted, till it subsides in the gloom of the neighbouring sky.
In these regions, are several minute stars, one cluster of four, on the bright part, of different colours, arranged in the form of a trapezium, near which two new stars have recently been discovered ; five others are in the fainter part of the nebula, in the direction of the southern horn: other stars are scattered in and near the nebula, some of which are surrounded with the same milky luminosity. One most striking peculiarity is observed relative to these stars,—that the nebulous matter seems to recede from them, so as to leave a dark space
between it and their brilliant points, as though the stars were either repelling the nebulous matter, or absorbing it; this is particularly the case with those that form the trapezium.
On one of the sides of the dark openings before referred to are filaments or fibres of light, which appear as if extending themselves to the opposite side; and on the sides of the head, in the direction of the northern horn, are faint streams of light, not unlike the tails of comets. The whole sky, for several degrees around, is not free from these appearances : two, close together, one of a spindle the other of a circular form; in the centre of the latter is a small star: a smaller nebula at the entrance of one of the dark openings, appears as if drawing together into a star.
This is but an imperfect description of the present appearance of this magnificent phenomenon, as seen by Herschel's 20 feet reflecting telescope :* there is every
* The accompanying engraving is copied from the Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society.
reason to believe that it has undergone considerable changes since it was first observed by Huygens in 1656. A careful comparison of the descriptions and drawings of various astronomers seem to indicate that the bright part of the nebula once extended over a larger space, and that it is gradually receding towards the stars that form the trapezium. Similar changes are suspected in other nebulæ : in some instances smaller ones are formed by the decomposition of larger.
These mysterious luminous masses of matter may be termed the laboratories of the universe, in which are contained the principles of future systems of suns, planets, satellites, and other tributary bodies;—these, elements, not in awful stagnation, but through the whole one spirit incessantly operating with sublime, unerring energy,-a process, going on which illimitably extends the fields of conjecture, as it slowly urges its awful way through this boundless range—these mighty movements, and vast operations.
Flow stupendous the consideration ! Suns so immeasurably distant, that the light of those which are supposed to be contiguous, is three years in traversing the space that separates them ; yet these--connected with each other, and innumerable others, on the simple principle of gravitation—these stars, so numerous, that in the small compass of half a degree a greater number bas been discovered by the telescope than the naked eye could discern in the whole vault of heaven; and yet there is ground for the belief, that the whole of these millions and millions of stars would melt into a soft tint of light if supposed to be contemplated from some remote point of space!
How grand is the consideration of this plenitude! Suns beyond suns; systems ranged behind systems in boundless perspective, and infinite progression,-no awful void, no dread vacancy, no dreary solitude : incessant streams of light, from myriads of systems, intersecting each other in every direction, and bearing to the boundless realms of the universe, evidences of creative power, benevolent design, and universal dominion !
THE BIRTH PLACE OF NEWTON.
As this month gave birth to Sir Isaac Newton, it may not be inappropriate to conclude with the following, from Dr. Brewster's Life of that great man:
“Sir Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe, a hamlet in the parish of Colsterworth, in Lincolnshire, about six miles south of Grantham, on the 25th December, 0. S. 1642, exactly one year after Galileo died, and was baptized at Colsterworth, on the 1st January, 1642—3. His father, Mr. Isaac Newton, died at the early age of thirty-six, a little more than a year after the death of his father, Robert Newton, and only a few months after bis marriage to Harriet Ayscough, daughter of James Ayscough of Market Overton, in Rutlandshire. This lady was accordingly left in a state of pregnancy, and appears to have given a premature birth to her only and posthumous child. The helpless infant thus ushered into the world, was of such an extremely diminutive size, * and seemed of so perishable a frame, that two women, who were sent to Lady Pakenham's, at
* Sir Isaac Newton told Mr. Conduit, that he had often heard his mother say, that when he was born, he was so little, that they might have put him into a quart mug.