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The Total Eclipse

The Total Eclipse image
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The topic of general interest in scientific circles for some days has been the total eclipse of the sun, which oocurred on the 17th inst. The line of totality, starting near the rjoast of África, south of the Great Desert, crosses Egypt and Persin, and, skirting the eouthern border of the great central table land, traversen the whole breadth of Asia, ending near Shanghai. European astronomers have gone to Egypt equipped with every means of observation that science couid suggest, or mechanical skill furnish, and the result of their observations will ba awaited with interest, as they are going to try some new niethods, and hope to make valuable additions to our knowledge of the physical condition of the sun. The whole región around the sun, reaching outward for hundreds of thousands of miles, is eccupied by matter intiinately connected with the solar orb, but concerning whose precise nature and extent astronomers are in much doubt. When the sun is hidden by the opaque body of the moon this wonderful región flashes iuto view, presenting a most astonishing sight. All around the hidden orb there glows a broad, coronal glory, irregular in outline, sometimos varyiog in color, and shooting out in places iuto great shafts and wings, or i'an-shaped projections. Within this wonderful crown of light, and ranged close aroucd the edge of the black disk of the moon, appear red flames, if objects tbat sometimes attain a height of hundreds of thousands of miles may be called flames. Here the most marvellous forces are at work. Theso rose-red flames are the so-called prominences which the spectroscope reveáis even in full sunshine, and which are shot forth from the sun with a velocity that staggers the reason. Probably they are masses of intecsely hot gas, and they have been watched as they settled back upon the sun, spreading out like clouds of glowing smoke and hanging over the fiery orb at a height cqual to many times the diameter of the earth. Dnring a total eclipse they can be seen on all sides of the sun, and the astronomers then strive to use the few minutes at their disposal to the beat possiblo advantage. Photography is called in to aid in recording the details of these and other strange appearances that are revealed in the neighborhood of the hidden sun. This eclipse occurs at a time when the sun is at a period of maximum disturbance, and on that account the scène in its neighborhood may be expected to be particularly grand, and the opportunities for the study o such phenomena unusually favorable. Every thing that can be learned about the sun and its surronndings is becoming more important and interesting, in view of the growing belief that the great orb of day is more intimately connected with the life of our earth than even s-tudents of solar physics had supposed. We know that the sun makes its electrical condition feit upon theearth, producing auroras and rnagnetic storms, and it would be very surprÍ8Íng if the same influence were not feit, perhaps in a greater degree, by Venus and Mercury, which are much nearer the sun than we are. Is it poesible, then, that the two great wiugs of the corona, which every body who saw the eclipse of 1878 watched with adrairatioD, were a visible manifestation of the interplay of electrical or otfcer forcts between the sun and the two inner planeta? The present eclipse may afford material which will serve eventually to answer this question. Mercury and Venus are now on the same side of the sun, and their apparent places on the oelestial sphere are not far apart, as seen from the earth. If the corona, on this occasion, should exhibit a great wing or shaft of light, extending toward the two planeta, especially if no other similar wicgs were visible, it would be a good argument in favor of the supposition that the phenornenon had a real connection with the plaueta. If such a wing should be seen doublé, the axis of each portion pointing toward one of the planeta, it would almost amount to a demonstraüon. Tha planets, however, will appear so close together, that even if two coronal wings in reality existed, they would probably appear bleoded into one. Moreover, their position is such that tho wiag would appear much foreshortened. The present eclipse will also give an opportunity to test the correctneas of the observation made in 1878 by two American astronomers, Professors Wateon and Swift, who believed that they detected two new planets revolving in orbite cloeer lo the sun than that of Mercury. The eclipse of 1880 failed to corrobórate this observation, but it was seen under very unfavorable circumstancea. The present occasion will be much more favorable for repeating the observation.


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat