Half-hours with the Telescope - Being a Popular Guide to the Use of the Telescope as a - Means of Amusement and Instruction.
by Richard A. Proctor
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An undevout astronomer is mad: True, all things speak a God; but, in the small Men trace out Him: in great He seizes man. YOUNG.

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The object which the Author and Publisher of this little work have proposed to themselves, has been the production, at a moderate price, of a useful and reliable guide to the amateur telescopist.

Among the celestial phenomena described or figured in this treatise, by far the larger number may be profitably examined with small telescopes, and there are none which are beyond the range of a good 3-inch achromatic.

The work also treats of the construction of telescopes, the nature and use of star-maps, and other subjects connected with the requirements of amateur observers.


January, 1868.










PLATE I.—Frontispiece.

This plate presents the aspect of the heavens at the four seasons, dealt with in Chapters II., III., IV., and V. In each map of this plate the central point represents the point vertically over the observer's head, and the circumference represents his horizon. The plan of each map is such that the direction of a star or constellation, as respects the compass-points, and its elevation, also, above the horizon, at the given season, can be at once determined. Two illustrations of the use of the maps will serve to explain their nature better than any detailed description. Suppose first, that—at one of the hours named under Map I.—the observer wishes to find Castor and Pollux:—Turning to Map I. he sees that these stars lie in the lower left-hand quadrant, and very nearly towards the point marked S.E.; that is, they are to be looked for on the sky towards the south-east. Also, it is seen that the two stars lie about one-fourth of the way from the centre towards the circumference. Hence, on the sky, the stars will be found about one-fourth of the way from the zenith towards the horizon: Castor will be seen immediately above Pollux. Next, suppose that at one of the hours named the observer wishes to learn what stars are visible towards the west and north-west:—Turning the map until the portion of the circumference marked W ... N.W. is lowermost, he sees that in the direction named the square of Pegasus lies not very high above the horizon, one diagonal of the square being vertical, the other nearly horizontal. Above the square is Andromeda, to the right of which lies Cassiopeia, the stars [beta] and [epsilon] of this constellation lying directly towards the north-west, while the star [alpha] lies almost exactly midway between the zenith and the horizon. Above Andromeda, a little towards the left, lies Perseus, Algol being almost exactly towards the west and one-third of the way from the zenith towards the horizon (because one-third of the way from the centre towards the circumference of the map). Almost exactly in the zenith is the star [delta] Aurigae.

The four maps are miniatures of Maps I., IV., VII., and X. of my 'Constellation Seasons,' fourth-magnitude stars, however, being omitted.

PLATES II., III., IV., and V., illustrating Chapters II., III., IV., and V.

Plates II. and IV. contain four star-maps. They not only serve to indicate the configuration of certain important star-groups, but they illustrate the construction of maps, such as the observer should make for himself when he wishes to obtain an accurate knowledge of particular regions of the sky. They are all made to one scale, and on the conical projection—the simplest and best of all projections for maps of this sort. The way in which the meridians and parallels for this projection are laid down is described in my 'Handbook of the Stars.' With a little practice a few minutes will suffice for sweeping out the equidistant circular arcs which mark the parallels and ruling in the straight meridians.

The dotted line across three of the maps represents a portion of the horizontal circle midway between the zenith and the horizon at the hour at which the map is supposed to be used. At other hours, of course, this line would be differently situated.

Plates III. and V. represent fifty-two of the objects mentioned in the above-named chapters. As reference is made to these figures in the text, little comment is here required. It is to be remarked, however, that the circles, and especially the small circles, do not represent the whole of the telescope's field of view, only a small portion of it. The object of these figures is to enable the observer to know what to expect when he turns his telescope towards a difficult double star. Many of the objects depicted are very easy doubles: these are given as objects of reference. The observer having seen the correspondence between an easy double and its picture, as respects the relation between the line joining the components and the apparent path of the double across the telescope's field of view, will know how to interpret the picture of a difficult double in this respect. And as all the small figures are drawn to one scale, he will also know how far apart he may expect to find the components of a difficult double. Thus he will have an exact conception of the sort of duplicity he is to look for, and this is—crede experto—a great step towards the detection of the star's duplicity.

PLATES VI. and VII., illustrating Chapters VI. and VII.

The views of Mercury, Venus, and Mars in these plates (except the smaller view of Jupiter in Plate VII.) are supposed to be seen with the same "power."

The observer must not expect to see the details presented in the views of Mars with anything like the distinctness I have here given to them. If he place the plate at a distance of six or seven yards he will see the views more nearly as Mars is likely to appear in a good three-inch aperture.

The chart of Mars is a reduction of one I have constructed from views by Mr. Dawes. I believe that nearly all the features included in the chart are permanent, though not always visible. I take this opportunity of noting that the eighteen orthographic pictures of Mars presented with my shilling chart are to be looked on rather as maps than as representing telescopic views. They illustrate usefully the varying presentation of Mars towards the earth. The observer can obtain other such illustrations for himself by filling in outlines, traced from those given at the foot of Plate VI., with details from the chart. It is to be noted that Mars varies in presentation, not only as respects the greater or less opening out of his equator towards the north or south, but as respects the apparent slope of his polar axis to the right or left. The four projections as shown, or inverted, or seen from the back of the plate (held up to the light) give presentations of Mars towards the sun at twelve periods of the Martial year,—viz., at the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, at the two solstices, and at intermediate periods corresponding to our terrestrial months.

In fact, by means of these projections one might readily form a series of sun-views of Mars resembling my 'Sun-views of the Earth.'

In the first view of Jupiter it is to be remarked that the three satellites outside the disc are supposed to be moving in directions appreciably parallel to the belts on the disc—the upper satellites from right to left, the lower one from left to right. In general the satellites, when so near to the disc, are not seen in a straight line, as the three shown in the figure happen to be. Of the three spots on the disc, the faintest is a satellite, the neighbouring dark spot its shadow, the other dark spot the shadow of the satellite close to the planet's disc.




There are few instruments which yield more pleasure and instruction than the Telescope. Even a small telescope—only an inch and a half or two inches, perhaps, in aperture—will serve to supply profitable amusement to those who know how to apply its powers. I have often seen with pleasure the surprise with which the performance even of an opera-glass, well steadied, and directed towards certain parts of the heavens, has been witnessed by those who have supposed that nothing but an expensive and colossal telescope could afford any views of interest. But a well-constructed achromatic of two or three inches in aperture will not merely supply amusement and instruction,—it may be made to do useful work.

The student of astronomy is often deterred from telescopic observation by the thought that in a field wherein so many have laboured, with abilities and means perhaps far surpassing those he may possess, he is little likely to reap results of any utility. He argues that, since the planets, stars, and nebulae have been scanned by Herschel and Rosse, with their gigantic mirrors, and at Pulkova and Greenwich with refractors whose construction has taxed to the utmost the ingenuity of the optician and mechanic, it must be utterly useless for an unpractised observer to direct a telescope of moderate power to the examination of these objects.

Now, passing over the consideration that a small telescope may afford its possessor much pleasure of an intellectual and elevated character, even if he is never able by its means to effect original discoveries, two arguments may be urged in favour of independent telescopic observation. In the first place, the student who wishes to appreciate the facts and theories of astronomy should familiarize himself with the nature of that instrument to which astronomers have been most largely indebted. In the second place, some of the most important discoveries in astronomy have been effected by means of telescopes of moderate power used skilfully and systematically. One instance may suffice to show what can be done in this way. The well-known telescopist Goldschmidt (who commenced astronomical observation at the age of forty-eight, in 1850) added fourteen asteroids to the solar system, not to speak of important discoveries of nebulae and variable stars, by means of a telescope only five feet in focal length, mounted on a movable tripod stand.

The feeling experienced by those who look through a telescope for the first time,—especially if it is directed upon a planet or nebula—is commonly one of disappointment. They have been told that such and such powers will exhibit Jupiter's belts, Saturn's rings, and the continent-outlines on Mars; yet, though perhaps a higher power is applied, they fail to detect these appearances, and can hardly believe that they are perfectly distinct to the practised eye.

The expectations of the beginner are especially liable to disappointment in one particular. He forms an estimate of the view he is to obtain of a planet by multiplying the apparent diameter of the planet by the magnifying power of his telescope, and comparing the result with the apparent diameter of the sun or moon. Let us suppose, for instance, that on the day of observation Jupiter's apparent diameter is 45", and that the telescopic power applied is 40, then in the telescope Jupiter should appear to have a diameter of 1800", or half a degree, which is about the same as the moon's apparent diameter. But when the observer looks through the telescope he obtains a view—interesting, indeed, and instructive—but very different from what the above calculation would lead him to expect. He sees a disc apparently much smaller than the moon's, and not nearly so well-defined in outline; in a line with the disc's centre there appear three or four minute dots of light, the satellites of the planet; and, perhaps, if the weather is favourable and the observer watchful, he will be able to detect faint traces of belts across the planet's disc.

Yet in such a case the telescope is not in fault. The planet really appears of the estimated size. In fact, it is often possible to prove this in a very simple manner. If the observer wait until the planet and the moon are pretty near together, he will find that it is possible to view the planet with one eye through the telescope and the moon with the unaided eye, in such a manner that the two discs may coincide, and thus their relative apparent dimensions be at once recognised. Nor should the indistinctness and incompleteness of the view be attributed to imperfection of the telescope; they are partly due to the nature of the observation and the low power employed, and partly to the inexperience of the beginner.

It is to such a beginner that the following pages are specially addressed, with the hope of affording him aid and encouragement in the use of one of the most enchanting of scientific instruments,—an instrument that has created for astronomers a new sense, so to speak, by which, in the words of the ancient poet:

Subjecere oculis distantia sidera nostris, AEtheraque ingenio supposuere suo.

In the first place, it is necessary that the beginner should rightly know what is the nature of the instrument he is to use. And this is the more necessary because, while it is perfectly easy to obtain such knowledge without any profound acquaintance with the science of optics, yet in many popular works on this subject the really important points are omitted, and even in scientific works such points are too often left to be gathered from a formula. When the observer has learnt what it is that his instrument is actually to do for him, he will know how to estimate its performance, and how to vary the application of its powers—whether illuminating or magnifying—according to the nature of the object to be observed.

Let us consider what it is that limits the range of natural vision applied to distant objects. What causes an object to become invisible as its distance increases? Two things are necessary that an object should be visible. It must be large enough to be appreciated by the eye, and it must send light enough. Thus increase of distance may render an object invisible, either through diminution of its apparent size, or through diminution in the quantity of light it sends to the eye, or through both these causes combined. A telescope, therefore, or (as its name implies) an instrument to render distant objects visible, must be both a magnifying and an illuminating instrument.

Let EF, fig. 1, be an object, not near to AB as in the figure, but so far off that the bounding lines from A and B would meet at the point corresponding to the point P. Then if a large convex glass AB (called an object-glass) be interposed between the object and the eye, all those rays which, proceeding from P, fall on AB, will be caused to converge nearly to a point p. The same is true for every point of the object EMF, and thus a small image, emf, will be formed. This image will not lie exactly on a flat surface, but will be curved about the point midway between A and B as a centre. Now if the lens AB is removed, and an eye is placed at m to view the distant object EMF, those rays only from each point of the object which fall on the pupil of the eye (whose diameter is about equal to mp suppose) will serve to render the object visible. On the other hand, every point of the image emf has received the whole of the light gathered up by the large glass AB. If then we can only make this light available, it is clear that we shall have acquired a large increase of light from the distant object. Now it will be noticed that the light which has converged to p, diverges from p so that an eye, placed that this diverging pencil of rays may fall upon it, would be too small to receive the whole of the pencil. Or, if it did receive the whole of this pencil, it clearly could not receive the whole of the pencils proceeding from other parts of the image emf. Something would be gained, though, even in this case, since it is clear that an eye thus placed at a distance of ten inches from emf (which is about the average distance of distinct vision) would not only receive much more light from the image emf, than it would from the object EMF, but see the image much larger than the object. It is in this way that a simple object-glass forms a telescope, a circumstance we shall presently have to notice more at length. But we want to gain the full benefit of the light which has been gathered up for us by our object-glass. We therefore interpose a small convex glass ab (called an eye-glass) between the image and the eye, at such a distance from the image that the divergent pencil of rays is converted into a pencil of parallel or nearly parallel rays. Call this an emergent pencil. Then all the emergent pencils now converge to a point on the axial line mM (produced beyond m), and an eye suitably placed can take in all of them at once. Thus the whole, or a large part, of the image is seen at once. But the image is seen inverted as shown. This is the Telescope, as it was first discovered, and such an arrangement would now be called a simple astronomical Telescope.

Let us clearly understand what each part of the astronomical telescope does for us:—

The object-glass AB gives us an illuminated image, the amount of illumination depending on the size of the object-glass. The eye-glass enables us to examine the image microscopically.

We may apply eye-glasses of different focal length. It is clear that the shorter the focal length of ab, the nearer must ab be placed to the image, and the smaller will the emergent pencils be, but the greater the magnifying power of the eye-glass. If the emergent pencils are severally larger than the pupil of the eye, light is wasted at the expense of magnifying power. Therefore the eye-glass should never be of greater focal length than that which makes the emergent pencils about equal in diameter to the pupil of the eye. On the other hand, the eye-glass must not be of such small focal length that the image appears indistinct and contorted, or dull for want of light.

Let us compare with the arrangement exhibited in fig. 1 that adopted by Galileo. Surprise is sometimes expressed that this instrument, which in the hands of the great Florentine astronomer effected so much, should now be known as the non-astronomical Telescope. I think this will be readily understood when we compare the two arrangements.

In the Galilean Telescope a small concave eye-glass, ab (fig. 2), is placed between the object-glass and the image. In fact, no image is allowed to be formed in this arrangement, but the convergent pencils are intercepted by the concave eye-glass, and converted into parallel emergent pencils. Now in fig. 2 the concave eye-glass is so placed as to receive only a part of the convergent pencil A p B, and this is the arrangement usually adopted. By using a concave glass of shorter focus, which would therefore be placed nearer to m p, the whole of the convergent pencil might be received in this as in the former case. But then the axis of the emergent pencil, instead of returning (as we see it in fig. 1) towards the axis of the telescope, would depart as much from that axis. Thus there would be no point on the axis at which the eye could be so placed as to receive emergent pencils showing any considerable part of the object. The difference may be compared to that between looking through the small end of a cone-shaped roll of paper and looking through the large end; in the former case the eye sees at once all that is to be seen through the roll (supposed fixed in position), in the latter the eye may be moved about so as to command the same range of view, but at any instant sees over a much smaller range.

To return to the arrangement actually employed, which is illustrated by the common opera-glass. We see that the full illuminating power of the telescope is not brought into play. But this is not the only objection to the Galilean Telescope. It is obvious that if the part C D of the object-glass were covered, the point P would not be visible, whereas, in the astronomical arrangement no other effect is produced on the visibility of an object, by covering part of the object-glass, than a small loss of illumination. In other words, the dimensions of the field of view of a Galilean Telescope depend on the size of the object-glass, whereas in the astronomical Telescope the field of view is independent of the size of the object-glass. The difference may be readily tested. If we direct an opera-glass upon any object, we shall find that any covering placed over a part of the object-glass becomes visible when we look through the instrument, interfering therefore pro tanto with the range of view. A covering similarly placed on any part of the object-glass of an astronomical telescope does not become visible when we look through the instrument. The distinction has a very important bearing on the theory of telescopic vision.

In considering the application of the telescope to practical observation, the circumstance that in the Galilean Telescope no real image is formed, is yet more important. A real image admits of measurement, linear or angular, while to a virtual image (such an image, for instance, as is formed by a common looking-glass) no such process can be applied. In simple observation the only noticeable effect of this difference is that, whereas in the astronomical Telescope a stop or diaphragm can be inserted in the tube so as to cut off what is called the ragged edge of the field of view (which includes all the part not reached by full pencils of light from the object-glass), there is no means of remedying the corresponding defect in the Galilean Telescope. It would be a very annoying defect in a telescope intended for astronomical observation, since in general the edge of the field of view is not perceptible at night. The unpleasant nature of the defect may be seen by looking through an opera-glass, and noticing the gradual fading away of light round the circumference of the field of view.

The properties of reflection as well as of refraction have been enlisted into the service of the astronomical observer. The formation of an image by means of a concave mirror is exhibited in fig. 3. As the observer's head would be placed between the object and the mirror, if the image, formed as in fig. 3, were to be microscopically examined, various devices are employed in the construction of reflecting telescopes to avoid the loss of light which would result—a loss which would be important even with the largest mirrors yet constructed. Thus, in Gregory's Telescope, a small mirror, having its concavity towards the great one, is placed in the axis of the tube and forms an image which is viewed through an aperture in the middle of the great mirror. A similar plan is adopted in Cassegrain's Telescope, a small convex mirror replacing the concave one. In Newton's Telescope a small inclined-plane reflector is used, which sends the pencil of light off at right-angles to the axis of the tube. In Herschel's Telescope the great mirror is inclined so that the image is formed at a slight distance from the axis of the telescope. In the two first cases the object is viewed in the usual or direct way, the image being erect in Gregory's and inverted in Cassegrain's. In the third the observer looks through the side of the telescope, seeing an inverted image of the object. In the last the observer sees the object inverted, but not altered as respects right and left. The last-mentioned method of viewing objects is the only one in which the observer's back is turned towards the object, yet this method is called the front view—apparently quasi lucus a non lucendo.

It appears, then, that in all astronomical Telescopes, reflecting or refracting, a real image of an object is submitted to microscopical examination.

Of this fact the possessor of a telescope may easily assure himself; for if the eye-glass be removed, and a small screen be placed at the focus of the object-glass, there will appear upon the screen a small picture of any object towards which the tube is turned. But the image may be viewed in another way which requires to be noticed. If the eye, placed at a distance of five or six inches from the image, be directed down the tube, the image will be seen as before; in fact, just as a single convex lens of short focus is the simplest microscope, so a simple convex lens of long focus is the simplest telescope.[1] But a singular circumstance will immediately attract the observer's notice. A real picture, or the image formed on the screen as in the former case, can be viewed at varying distances; but when we view the image directly, it will be found that for distinct vision the eye must be placed almost exactly at a fixed distance from the image. This peculiarity is more important than it might be thought at first sight. In fact, it is essential that the observer who would rightly apply the powers of his telescope, or fairly test its performance, should understand in what respect an image formed by an object-glass or object-mirror differs from a real object.

The peculiarities to be noted are the curvature, indistinctness, and false colouring of the image.

The curvature of the image is the least important of the three defects named—a fortunate circumstance, since this defect admits neither of remedy nor modification. The image of a distant object, instead of lying in a plane, that is, forming what is technically called a flat field, forms part of a spherical surface whose centre is at the centre of the object-glass. Hence the centre of the field of view is somewhat nearer to the eye than are the outer parts of the field. The amount of curvature clearly depends on the extent of the field of view, and therefore is not great in powerful telescopes. Thus, if we suppose that the angular extent of the field is about half a degree (a large or low-power field), the centre is nearer than the boundary of the field by about 1-320th part only of the field's diameter.

The indistinctness of the image is partly due to the obliquity of the pencils which form parts of the image, and partly to what is termed spherical aberration. The first cause cannot be modified by the optician's skill, and is not important when the field of view is small. Spherical aberration causes those parts of a pencil which fall near the boundary of a convex lens to converge to a nearer (i.e. shorter) focus than those which fall near the centre. This may be corrected by a proper selection of the forms of the two lenses which replace, in all modern telescopes, the single lens hitherto considered.

The false colouring of the image is due to chromatic aberration. The pencil of light proceeding from a point, converges, not to one point, but to a short line of varying colour. Thus a series of coloured images is formed, at different distances from the object-glass. So that, if a screen were placed to receive the mean image in focus, a coloured fringe due to the other images (out of focus, and therefore too large) would surround the mean image.

Newton supposed that it was impossible to get rid of this defect, and therefore turned his attention to the construction of reflectors. But the discovery that the dispersive powers of different glasses are not proportional to their reflective powers, supplied opticians with the means of remedying the defect. Let us clearly understand what is the discovery referred to. If with a glass prism of a certain form we produce a spectrum of the sun, this spectrum will be thrown a certain distance away from the point on which the sun's rays would fall if not interfered with. This distance depends on the refractive power of the glass. The spectrum will have a certain length, depending on the dispersive power of the glass. Now, if we change our prism for another of exactly the same shape, but made of a different kind of glass, we shall find the spectrum thrown to a different spot. If it appeared that the length of the new spectrum was increased or diminished in exactly the same proportion as its distance from the line of the sun's direct light, it would have been hopeless to attempt to remedy chromatic aberration. Newton took it for granted that this was so. But the experiments of Hall and the Dollonds showed that there is no such strict proportionality between the dispersive and refractive powers of different kinds of glass. It accordingly becomes possible to correct the chromatic aberration of one glass by superadding that of another.

This is effected by combining, as shown in fig. 4, a convex lens of crown glass with a concave lens of flint glass, the convex lens being placed nearest to the object. A little colour still remains, but not enough to interfere seriously with the distinctness of the image.

But even if the image formed by the object-glass were perfect, yet this image, viewed through a single convex lens of short focus placed as in fig. 1, would appear curved, indistinct, coloured, and also distorted, because viewed by pencils of light which do not pass through the centre of the eye-glass. These effects can be diminished (but not entirely removed together) by using an eye-piece consisting of two lenses instead of a single eye-glass. The two forms of eye-piece most commonly employed are exhibited in figs. 5 and 6. Fig. 5 is Huyghens' eye-piece, called also the negative eye-piece, because a real image is formed behind the field-glass (the lens which lies nearest to the object-glass). Fig. 6 represents Ramsden's eye-piece, called also the positive eye-piece, because the real image formed by the object-glass lies in front of the field-glass.

The course of a slightly oblique pencil through either eye-piece is exhibited in the figures. The lenses are usually plano-convex, the convexities being turned towards the object-glass in the negative eye-piece, and towards each other in the positive eye-piece. Coddington has shown, however, that the best forms for the lenses of the negative eye-piece are those shown in fig. 5.

The negative eye-piece, being achromatic, is commonly employed in all observations requiring distinct vision only. But as it is clearly unfit for observations requiring micrometrical measurement, or reference to fixed lines at the focus of the object-glass, the positive eye-piece is used for these purposes.

For observing objects at great elevations the diagonal eye-tube is often convenient. Its construction is shown in fig. 7. ABC is a totally reflecting prism of glass. The rays from the object-glass fall on the face AB, are totally reflected on the face BC, and emerge through the face AC. In using this eye-piece, it must be remembered that it lengthens the sliding eye-tube, which must therefore be thrust further in, or the object will not be seen in focus. There is an arrangement by which the change of direction is made to take place between the two glasses of the eye-piece. With this arrangement (known as the diagonal eye-piece) no adjustment of the eye-tube is required. However, for amateurs' telescopes the more convenient arrangement is the diagonal eye-tube, since it enables the observer to apply any eye-piece he chooses, just as with the simple sliding eye-tube.

We come next to the important question of the mounting of our telescope.

The best known, and, in some respects, the simplest method of mounting a telescope for general observation is that known as the altitude-and-azimuth mounting. In this method the telescope is pointed towards an object by two motions,—one giving the tube the required altitude (or elevation), the other giving it the required azimuth (or direction as respects the compass points).

For small alt-azimuths the ordinary pillar-and-claw stand is sufficiently steady. For larger instruments other arrangements are needed, both to give the telescope steadiness, and to supply slow movements in altitude and azimuth. The student will find no difficulty in understanding the arrangement of sliding-tubes and rack-work commonly adopted. This arrangement seems to me to be in many respects defective, however. The slow movement in altitude is not uniform, but varies in effect according to the elevation of the object observed. It is also limited in range; and quite a little series of operations has to be gone through when it is required to direct the telescope towards a new quarter of the heavens. However expert the observer may become by practice in effecting these operations, they necessarily take up some time (performed as they must be in the dark, or by the light of a small lantern), and during this time it often happens that a favourable opportunity for observation is lost.

These disadvantages are obviated when the telescope is mounted in such a manner as is exhibited in fig. 8, which represents a telescope of my own construction. The slow movement in altitude is given by rotating the rod he, the endless screw in which turns the small wheel at b, whose axle in turn bears a pinion-wheel working in the teeth of the quadrant a. The slow movement in azimuth is given in like manner by rotating the rod h'e', the lantern-wheel at the end of which turns a crown-wheel on whose axle is a pinion-wheel working in the teeth of the circle c. The casings at e and e', in which the rods he and h'e' respectively work, are so fastened by elastic cords that an upward pressure on the handle h, or a downward pressure on the handle h', at once releases the endless screw or the crown-wheel respectively, so that the telescope can be swept at once through any desired angle in altitude or azimuth. This method of mounting has other advantages; the handles are conveniently situated and constant in position; also, as they do not work directly on the telescope, they can be turned without setting the tube in vibration.

I do not recommend the mounting to be exactly as shown in fig. 8. That method is much too expensive for an alt-azimuth. But a simple arrangement of belted wheels in place of the toothed wheels a and c might very readily be prepared by the ingenious amateur telescopist; and I feel certain that the comfort and convenience of the arrangement would amply repay him for the labour it would cost him. My own telescope—though the large toothed-wheel and the quadrant were made inconveniently heavy (through a mistake of the workman who constructed the instrument)—worked as easily and almost as conveniently as an equatorial.

Still, it is well for the observer who wishes systematically to survey the heavens—and who can afford the expense—to obtain a well-mounted equatorial. In this method of mounting, the main axis is directed to the pole of the heavens; the other axis, at right angles to the first, carries the telescope-tube. One of the many methods adopted for mounting equatorials is that exhibited—with the omission of some minor details—in fig. 9. a is the polar axis, b is the axis (called the declination axis) which bears the telescope. The circles c and d serve to indicate, by means of verniers revolving with the axes, the motion of the telescope in right ascension and declination, respectively. The weight w serves to counterpoise the telescope, and the screws s, s, s, s, serve to adjust the instrument so that the polar axis shall be in its proper position. The advantage gained by the equatorial method of mounting is that only one motion is required to follow a star. Owing to the diurnal rotation of the earth, the stars appear to move uniformly in circles parallel to the celestial equator; and it is clear that a star so moving will be kept in the field of view, if the telescope, once directed to the star, be made to revolve uniformly and at a proper rate round the polar axis.

The equatorial can be directed by means of the circles c and d to any celestial object whose right ascension and declination are known. On the other hand, to bring an object into the field of view of an alt-azimuth, it is necessary, either that the object itself should be visible to the naked eye, or else that the position of the object should be pretty accurately learned from star-maps, so that it may be picked up by the alt-azimuth after a little searching. A small telescope called a finder is usually attached to all powerful telescopes intended for general observation. The finder has a large field of view, and is adjusted so as to have its axis parallel to that of the large telescope. Thus a star brought to the centre of the large field of the finder (indicated by the intersection of two lines placed at the focus of the eye-glass) is at, or very near, the centre of the small field of the large telescope.

If a telescope has no finder, it will be easy for the student to construct one for himself, and will be a useful exercise in optics. Two convex lenses not very different in size from those shown in fig. 1, and placed as there shown—the distance between them being the sum of the focal lengths of the two glasses—in a small tube of card, wood, or tin, will serve the purpose of a finder for a small telescope. It can be attached by wires to the telescope-tube, and adjusted each night before commencing observation. The adjustment is thus managed:—a low power being applied to the telescope, the tube is turned towards a bright star; this is easily effected with a low power; then the finder is to be fixed, by means of its wires, in such a position that the star shall be in the centre of the field of the finder when also in the centre of the telescope's field. When this has been done, the finder will greatly help the observations of the evening; since with high powers much time would be wasted in bringing an object into the field of view of the telescope without the aid of a finder. Yet more time would be wasted in the case of an object not visible to the naked eye, but whose position with reference to several visible stars is known; since, while it is easy to bring the point required to the centre of the finder's field, in which the guiding stars are visible, it is very difficult to direct the telescope's tube on a point of this sort. A card tube with wire fastenings, such as we have described, may appear a very insignificant contrivance to the regular observer, with his well-mounted equatorial and carefully-adjusted finder. But to the first attempts of the amateur observer it affords no insignificant assistance, as I can aver from my own experience. Without it—a superior finder being wanting—our "half-hours" would soon be wasted away in that most wearisome and annoying of all employments, trying to "pick up" celestial objects.

It behoves me at this point to speak of star-maps. Such maps are of many different kinds. There are the Observatory maps, in which the places of thousands of stars are recorded with an amazing accuracy. Our beginner is not likely to make use of, or to want, such maps as these. Then there are maps merely intended to give a good general idea of the appearance of the heavens at different hours and seasons. Plate I. presents four maps of this sort; but a more complete series of eight maps has been published by Messrs. Walton and Maberly in an octavo work; and my own 'Constellation-Seasons' give, at the same price, twelve quarto maps (of four of which those in Plate I. are miniatures), showing the appearance of the sky at any hour from month to month, or on any night, at successive intervals of two hours. But maps intermediate in character to these and to Observatory maps are required by the amateur observer. Such are the Society's six gnomonic maps, the set of six gnomonic maps in Johnstone's 'Atlas of Astronomy,' and my own set of twelve gnomonic maps. The Society's maps are a remarkably good set, containing on the scale of a ten-inch globe all the stars in the Catalogue of the Astronomical Society (down to the fifth magnitude). The distortion, however, is necessarily enormous when the celestial sphere is presented in only six gnomonic maps. In my maps all the stars of the British Association Catalogue down to the fifth magnitude are included on the scale of a six-inch globe. The distortion is scarcely a fourth of that in the Society's maps. The maps are so arranged that the relative positions of all the stars in each hemisphere can be readily gathered from a single view; and black duplicate-maps serve to show the appearance of the constellations.

It is often convenient to make small maps of a part of the heavens we may wish to study closely. My 'Handbook of the Stars' has been prepared to aid the student in the construction of such maps.

In selecting maps it is well to be able to recognise the amount of distortion and scale-variation. This may be done by examining the spaces included between successive parallels and meridians, near the edges and angles of the maps, and comparing these either with those in the centre of the map, or with the known figures and dimensions of the corresponding spaces on a globe.

We may now proceed to discuss the different tests which the intending purchaser of a telescope should apply to the instrument.

The excellence of an object-glass can be satisfactorily determined only by testing the performance of the telescope in the manner presently to be described. But it is well to examine the quality of the glass as respects transparency and uniformity of texture. Bubbles, scratches, and other such defects, are not very important, since they do not affect the distinctness of the field as they would in a Galilean Telescope,—a little light is lost, and that is all. The same remark applies to dust upon the glass. The glass should be kept as free as possible from dirt, damp, or dust, but it is not advisable to remove every speck which, despite such precaution, may accidentally fall upon the object-glass. When it becomes necessary to clean the glass, it is to be noted that the substance used should be soft, perfectly dry, and free from dust. Silk is often recommended, but some silk is exceedingly objectionable in texture,—old silk, perfectly soft to the touch, is perhaps as good as anything. If the dust which has fallen on the glass is at all gritty, the glass will suffer by the method of cleaning commonly adopted, in which the dust is gathered up by pressure. The proper method is to clean a small space near the edge of the glass, and to sweep from that space as centre. In this way the dust is pushed before the silk or wash-leather, and does not cut the glass. It is well always to suspect the presence of gritty dust, and adopt this cautious method of cleaning.

The two glasses should on no account be separated.

In examining an eye-piece, the quality of the glass should be noted, and care taken that both glasses (but especially the field-glass) are free from the least speck, scratch, or blemish of any kind, for these defects will be exhibited in a magnified state in the field of view. Hence the eye-pieces require to be as carefully preserved from damp and dust as the object-glass, and to be more frequently cleaned.

The tube of the telescope should be light, but strong, and free from vibration. Its quality in the last respect can be tested by lightly striking it when mounted; the sound given out should be dead or non-resonant. The inside of the tube must absorb extraneous light, and should therefore be coloured a dull black; and stops of varying radius should be placed along its length with the same object. Sliding tubes, rack-work, etc., should work closely, yet easily.

The telescope should be well balanced for vision with the small astronomical eye-pieces. But as there is often occasion to use appliances which disturb the balance, it is well to have the means of at once restoring equilibrium. A cord ring running round the tube (pretty tightly, so as to rest still when the tube is inclined), and bearing a small weight, will be all that is required for this purpose; it must be slipped along the tube until the tube is found to be perfectly balanced. Nothing is more annoying than, after getting a star well in the field, to see the tube shift its position through defective balance, and thus to have to search again for the star. Even with such an arrangement as is shown in fig. 8, though the tube cannot readily shift its position, it is better to have it well balanced.

The quality of the stand has a very important influence on the performance of a telescope. In fact, a moderately good telescope, mounted on a steady stand, working easily and conveniently, will not only enable the observer to pass his time much more pleasantly, but will absolutely exhibit more difficult objects than a finer instrument on a rickety, ill-arranged stand. A good observing-chair is also a matter of some importance, the least constraint or awkwardness of position detracting considerably from the power of distinct vision. Such, at least, is my own experience.

But the mere examination of the glasses, tube, mounting, &c., is only the first step in the series of tests which should be applied to a telescope, since the excellence of the instrument depends, not on its size, the beauty of its mounting, or any extraneous circumstances, but on its performance.

The observer should first determine whether the chromatic aberration is corrected. To ascertain this the telescope should be directed to the moon, or (better) to Jupiter, and accurately focussed for distinct vision. If, then, on moving the eye-piece towards the object-glass, a ring of purple appears round the margin of the object, and on moving the eye-glass in the contrary direction a ring of green, the chromatic aberration is corrected, since these are the colours of the secondary spectrum.

To determine whether the spherical aberration is corrected, the telescope should be directed towards a star of the third or fourth magnitude, and focussed for distinct vision. A cap with an aperture of about one-half its diameter should then be placed over the object-glass. If no new adjustment is required for distinct vision, the spherical aberration is corrected, since the mean focal length and the focal length of the central rays are equal. If, when the cap is on, the eye-piece has to be pulled out for distinct vision, the spherical aberration has not been fully corrected; if the eye-piece has to be pushed in, the aberration has been over-corrected. As a further test, we may cut off the central rays, by means of a circular card covering the middle of the object-glass, and compare the focal length for distinct vision with the focal length when the cap is applied. The extent of the spherical aberration may be thus determined; but if the first experiment gives a satisfactory result, no other is required.

A star of the first magnitude should next be brought into the field of view. If an irradiation from one side is perceived, part of the object-glass has not the same refractive power as the rest; and the part which is defective can be determined by applying in different positions a cap which hides half the object-glass. If the irradiation is double, it will probably be found that the object-glass has been too tightly screwed, and the defect will disappear when the glass is freed from such undue pressure.

If the object-glass is not quite at right angles to the axis of the tube, or if the eye-tube is at all inclined, a like irradiation will appear when a bright star is in the field. The former defect is not easily detected or remedied; nor is it commonly met with in the work of a careful optician. The latter defect may be detected by cutting out three circular cards of suitable size with a small aperture at the centre of each, and inserting one at each end of the eye-tube, and one over the object-glass. If the tube is rightly placed the apertures will of course lie in a right line, so that it will be possible to look through all three at once. If not, it will be easy to determine towards what part of the object-glass the eye-tube is directed, and to correct the position of the tube accordingly.

The best tests for determining the defining power of a telescope are close double or multiple stars, the components of which are not very unequal. The illuminating power should be tested by directing the telescope towards double or multiple stars having one or more minute components. Many of the nebulae serve as tests both for illumination and defining power. As we proceed we shall meet with proper objects for testing different telescopes. For the present, let the following list suffice. It is selected from Admiral Smyth's tests, obtained by diminishing the aperture of a 6-in. telescope having a focal length of 8-1/2 feet:

A two-inch aperture, with powers of from 60 to 100, should exhibit

[alpha] Piscium (3".5). [delta] Cassiopeiae (9".5), mag. (4 and 7-1/2) [gamma] Leonis (3".2). Polaris (18".6), mag. (2-1/2 and 9-1/2)

A four-inch, powers 80 to 120, should exhibit

[xi] Ursae Majoris (2".4). [sigma] Cassiopeiae (3".1), mag. (6 and 8). [gamma] Ceti (2".6). [delta] Geminorum (7".1), mag. (4 and 9).

The tests in the first column are for definition, those in the second for illumination. It will be noticed that, though in the case of Polaris the smaller aperture may be expected to show the small star of less than the 9th magnitude, a larger aperture is required to show the 8th magnitude component of [sigma] Cassiopeiae, on account of the greater closeness of this double.

In favourable weather the following is a good general test of the performance of a telescope:—A star of the 3rd or 4th magnitude at a considerable elevation above the horizon should exhibit a small well defined disc, surrounded by two or three fine rings of light.

A telescope should not be mounted within doors, if it can be conveniently erected on solid ground, as every movement in the house will cause the instrument to vibrate unpleasantly. Further, if the telescope is placed in a warm room, currents of cold air from without will render observed objects hazy and indistinct. In fact, Sir W. Herschel considered that a telescope should not even be erected near a house or elevation of any kind round which currents of air are likely to be produced. If a telescope is used in a room, the temperature of the room should be made as nearly equal as possible to that of the outer air.

When a telescope is used out of doors a 'dew-cap,' that is, a tube of tin or pasteboard, some ten or twelve inches long, should be placed on the end of the instrument, so as to project beyond the object-glass. For glass is a good radiator of heat, so that dew falls heavily upon it, unless the radiation is in some way checked. The dew-cap does this effectually. It should be blackened within, especially if made of metal. "After use," says old Kitchener, "the telescope should be kept in a warm place long enough for any moisture on the object-glass to evaporate." If damp gets between the glasses it produces a fog (which opticians call a sweat) or even a seaweed-like vegetation, by which a valuable glass may be completely ruined.

The observer should not leave to the precious hours of the night the study of the bearing and position of the objects he proposes to examine. This should be done by day—an arrangement which has a twofold advantage,—the time available for observation is lengthened, and the eyes are spared sudden changes from darkness to light, and vice versa. Besides, the eye is ill-fitted to examine difficult objects, after searching by candle-light amongst the minute details recorded in maps or globes. Of the effect of rest to the eye we have an instance in Sir J. Herschel's rediscovery of the satellites of Uranus, which he effected after keeping his eyes in darkness for a quarter of an hour. Kitchener, indeed, goes so far as to recommend (with a crede experto) an interval of sleep in the darkness of the observing-room before commencing operations. I have never tried the experiment, but I should expect it to have a bad rather than a good effect on the eyesight, as one commonly sees the eyes of a person who has been sleeping in his day-clothes look heavy and bloodshot.

The object or the part of an object to be observed should be brought as nearly as possible to the centre of the field of view. When there is no apparatus for keeping the telescope pointed upon an object, the best plan is so to direct the telescope by means of the finder, that the object shall be just out of the field of view, and be brought (by the earth's motion) across the centre of the field. Thus the vibrations which always follow the adjustment of the tube will have subsided before the object appears. The object should then be intently watched during the whole interval of its passage across the field of view.

It is important that the student should recognise the fact that the highest powers do not necessarily give the best views of celestial objects. High powers in all cases increase the difficulty of observation, since they diminish the field of view and the illumination of the object, increase the motion with which (owing to the earth's motion) the image moves across the field, and magnify all defects due to instability of the stand, imperfection of the object-glass, or undulation of the atmosphere. A good object-glass of three inches aperture will in very favourable weather bear a power of about 300, when applied to the observation of close double or multiple stars, but for all other observations much lower powers should be used. Nothing but failure and annoyance can follow the attempt to employ the highest powers on unsuitable objects or in unfavourable weather.

The greatest care should be taken in focussing the telescope. When high powers are used this is a matter of some delicacy. It would be well if the eye-pieces intended for a telescope were so constructed that when the telescope is focussed for one, this might be replaced by any other without necessitating any use of the focussing rack-work. This could be readily effected by suitably placing the shoulder which limits the insertion of the eye-piece.

It will be found that, even in the worst weather for observation, there are instants of distinct vision (with moderate powers) during which the careful observer may catch sight of important details; and, similarly, in the best observing weather, there are moments of unusually distinct vision well worth patient waiting for, since in such weather alone the full powers of the telescope can be employed.

The telescopist should not be deterred from observation by the presence of fog or haze, since with a hazy sky definition is often singularly good.

The observer must not expect distinct vision of objects near the horizon. Objects near the eastern horizon during the time of morning twilight are especially confused by atmospheric undulations; in fact, early morning is a very unfavourable time for the observation of all objects.

The same rules which we have been applying to refractors, serve for reflectors. The performance of a reflector will be found to differ in some respects, however, from that of a refractor. Mr. Dawes is, we believe, now engaged in testing reflectors, and his unequalled experience of refractors will enable him to pronounce decisively on the relative merits of the two classes of telescopes.

We have little to say respecting the construction of telescopes. Whether it is advisable or not for an amateur observer to attempt the construction of his own telescope is a question depending entirely on his mechanical ability and ingenuity. My own experience of telescope construction is confined to the conversion of a 3-feet into a 5-1/2-feet telescope. This operation involved some difficulties, since the aperture had to be increased by about an inch. I found a tubing made of alternate layers of card and calico well pasted together, to be both light and strong. But for the full length of tube I think a core of metal is wanted. A learned and ingenious friend, Mr. Sharp, Fellow of St. John's College, informs me that a tube of tin, covered with layers of brown paper, well pasted and thicker near the middle of the tube, forms a light and strong telescope-tube, almost wholly free from vibration.

Suffer no inexperienced person to deal with your object-glass. I knew a valuable glass ruined by the proceedings of a workman who had been told to attach three pieces of brass round the cell of the double lens. What he had done remained unknown, but ever after a wretched glare of light surrounded all objects of any brilliancy.

One word about the inversion of objects by the astronomical telescope. It is singular that any difficulty should be felt about so simple a matter, yet I have seen in the writings of more than one distinguished astronomer, wholly incorrect views as to the nature of the inversion. One tells us that to obtain the correct presentation from a picture taken with a telescope, the view should be inverted, held up to the light, and looked at from the back of the paper. Another tells us to invert the picture and hold it opposite a looking-glass. Neither method is correct. The simple correction wanted is to hold the picture upside down—the same change which brings the top to the bottom brings the right to the left, i.e., fully corrects the inversion.

In the case, however, of a picture taken by an Herschelian reflector, the inversion not being complete, a different method must be adopted. In fact, either of the above-named processes, incorrect for the ordinary astronomical, would be correct for the Herschelian Telescope. The latter inverts but does not reverse right and left; therefore after inverting our picture we must interchange right and left because they have been reversed by the inversion. This is effected either by looking at the picture from behind, or by holding it up to a mirror.



Any of the half-hours here assigned to the constellation-seasons may be taken first, and the rest in seasonal or cyclic order. The following introductory remarks are applicable to each:—

If we stand on an open space, on any clear night, we see above us the celestial dome spangled with stars, apparently fixed in position. But after a little time it becomes clear that these orbs are slowly shifting their position. Those near the eastern horizon are rising, those near the western setting. Careful and continuous observation would show that the stars are all moving in the same way, precisely, as they would if they were fixed to the concave surface of a vast hollow sphere, and this sphere rotated about an axis. This axis, in our latitude, is inclined about 51-1/2 deg. to the horizon. Of course only one end of this imaginary axis can be above our horizon. This end lies very near a star which it will be well for us to become acquainted with at the beginning of our operations. It lies almost exactly towards the north, and is raised from 50 deg. to 53 deg. (according to the season and hour) above the horizon. There is an easy method of finding it.

We must first find the Greater Bear. It will be seen from Plate 1, that on a spring evening the seven conspicuous stars of this constellation are to be looked for towards the north-east, about half way between the horizon and the point overhead (or zenith), the length of the set of stars being vertical. On a summer's evening the Great Bear is nearly overhead. On an autumn evening he is towards the north-west, the length of the set of seven being somewhat inclined to the horizon. Finally, on a winter's evening, he is low down towards the north, the length of the set of seven stars being nearly in a horizontal direction.

Having found the seven stars, we make use of the pointers [alpha] and [beta] (shown in Plate 1) to indicate the place of the Pole-star, whose distance from the pointer [alpha] is rather more than three times the distance of [alpha] from [beta].

Now stand facing the Pole-star. Then all the stars are travelling round that star in a direction contrary to that in which the hands of a watch move. Thus the stars below the pole are moving towards the right, those above the pole towards the left, those to the right of the pole upwards, those to the left of the pole downwards.

Next face the south. Then all the stars on our left, that is, towards the east, are rising slantingly towards the south; those due south are moving horizontally to the right, that is, towards the west; and those on our right are passing slantingly downwards towards the west.

It is important to familiarise ourselves with these motions, because it is through them that objects pass out of the field of view of the telescope, and by moving the tube in a proper direction we can easily pick up an object that has thus passed away, whereas if we are not familiar with the varying motions in different parts of the celestial sphere, we may fail in the attempt to immediately recover an object, and waste time in the search for it.

The consideration of the celestial motions shows how advantageous it is, when using an alt-azimuth, to observe objects as nearly as possible due south. Of course in many cases this is impracticable, because a phenomenon we wish to watch may occur when an object is not situated near the meridian. But in examining double stars there is in general no reason for selecting objects inconveniently situated. We can wait till they come round to the meridian, and then observe them more comfortably. Besides, most objects are higher, and therefore better seen, when due south.

Northern objects, and especially those within the circle of perpetual apparition, often culminate (that is, cross the meridian, or north and south line) at too great a height for comfortable vision. In this case we should observe them towards the east or west, and remember that in the first case they are rising, and in the latter they are setting, and that in both cases they have also a motion from left to right.

If we allow an object to pass right across the field of view (the telescope being fixed), the apparent direction of its motion is the exact reverse of the true direction of the star's motion. This will serve as a guide in shifting the alt-azimuth after a star has passed out of the field of view.

The following technical terms must be explained. That part of the field of view towards which the star appears to move is called the preceding part of the field, the opposite being termed the following part. The motion for all stars, except those lying in an oval space extending from the zenith to the pole of the heavens, is more or less from right to left (in the inverted field). Now, if we suppose a star to move along a diameter of the field so as to divide the field into two semicircles, then in all cases in which this motion takes places from right to left, that semicircle which contains the lowest point (apparently) of the field is the northern half, the other is the southern half. Over the oval space just mentioned the reverse holds.

Thus the field is divided into four quadrants, and these are termed north following (n.f.) and south following (s.f.); north preceding (n.p.), and south preceding (s.p.). The student can have no difficulty in interpreting these terms, since he knows which is the following and which the preceding semicircle, which the northern and which the southern. In the figures of plates 3 and 5, the letters n.f., n.p., &c., are affixed to the proper quadrants. It is to be remembered that the quadrants thus indicated are measured either way from the point and feather of the diametral arrows.

Next, of the apparent annual motion of the stars. This takes place in exactly the same manner as the daily motion. If we view the sky at eight o'clock on any day, and again at the same hour one month later, we shall find that at the latter observation (as compared with the former) the heavens appear to have rotated by the twelfth part of a complete circumference, and the appearance presented is precisely the same as we should have observed had we waited for two hours (the twelfth part of a day) on the day of the first observation.

* * * * *

Our survey of the heavens is supposed to be commenced during the first quarter of the year, at ten o'clock on the 20th of January, or at nine on the 5th of February, or at eight on the 19th of February, or at seven on the 6th of March, or at hours intermediate to these on intermediate days.

We look first for the Great Bear towards the north-east, as already described, and thence find the Pole-star; turning towards which we see, towards the right and downwards, the two guardians of the pole ([beta] and [gamma] Ursae Minoris). Immediately under the Pole-star is the Dragon's Head, a conspicuous diamond of stars. Just on the horizon is Vega, scintillating brilliantly. Overhead is the brilliant Capella, near which the Milky Way is seen passing down to the horizon on either side towards the quarters S.S.E. and N.N.W.

For the present our business is with the southern heavens, however.

Facing the south, we see a brilliant array of stars, Sirius unmistakeably overshining the rest. Orion is shining in full glory, his leading brilliant, Betelgeuse[2] being almost exactly on the meridian, and also almost exactly half way between the horizon and the zenith. In Plate 2 is given a map of this constellation and its neighbourhood.

Let us first turn the tube on Sirius. It is easy to get him in the field without the aid of a finder. The search will serve to illustrate a method often useful when a telescope has no finder. Having taking out the eye-piece—a low-power one, suppose—direct the tube nearly towards Sirius. On looking through it, a glare of light will be seen within the tube. Now, if the tube be slightly moved about, the light will be seen to wax and wane, according as the tube is more or less accurately directed. Following these indications, it will be found easy to direct the tube, so that the object-glass shall appear full of light. When this is done, insert the eye-piece, and the star will be seen in the field.

But the telescope is out of focus, therefore we must turn the small focussing screw. Observe the charming chromatic changes—green, and red, and blue light, purer than the hues of the rainbow, scintillating and coruscating with wonderful brilliancy. As we get the focus, the excursions of these light flashes diminish until—if the weather is favourable—the star is seen, still scintillating, and much brighter than to the naked eye, but reduced to a small disc of light, surrounded (in the case of so bright a star as Sirius) with a slight glare. If after obtaining the focus the focussing rack work be still turned, we see a coruscating image as before. In the case of a very brilliant star these coruscations are so charming that we may be excused for calling the observer's attention to them. The subject is not without interest and difficulty as an optical one. But the astronomer's object is to get rid of all these flames and sprays of coloured light, so that he has very little sympathy with the admiration which Wordsworth is said to have expressed for out-of-focus views of the stars.

We pass to more legitimate observations, noticing in passing that Sirius is a double star, the companion being of the tenth magnitude, and distant about ten seconds from the primary. But our beginner is not likely to see the companion, which is a very difficult object, vowing to the overpowering brilliancy of the primary.

Orion affords the observer a splendid field of research. It is a constellation rich in double and multiple stars, clusters, and nebulae. We will begin with an easy object.

The star [delta] (Plate 3), or Mintaka, the uppermost of the three stars forming the belt, is a wide double. The primary is of the second magnitude, the secondary of the seventh, both being white.

The star [alpha] (Betelgeuse) is an interesting object, on account of its colour and brilliance, and as one of the most remarkable variables in the heavens. It was first observed to be variable by Sir John Herschel in 1836. At this period its variations were "most marked and striking." This continued until 1840, when the changes became "much less conspicuous. In January, 1849, they had recommenced, and on December 5th, 1852, Mr. Fletcher observed [alpha] Orionis brighter than Capella, and actually the largest star in the northern hemisphere." That a star so conspicuous, and presumably so large, should present such remarkable variations, is a circumstance which adds an additional interest to the results which have rewarded the spectrum-analysis of this star by Mr. Huggins and Professor Miller. It appears that there is decisive evidence of the presence in this luminary of many elements known to exist in our own sun; amongst others are found sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and bismuth. Hydrogen appears to be absent, or, more correctly, there are no lines in the star's spectrum corresponding to those of hydrogen in the solar spectrum. Secchi considers that there is evidence of an actual change in the spectrum of the star, an opinion in which Mr. Huggins does not coincide. In the telescope Betelgeuse appears as "a rich and brilliant gem," says Lassell, "a rich topaz, in hue and brilliancy differing from any that I have seen."

Turn next to [beta] (Rigel), the brightest star below the belt. This is a very noted double, and will severely test our observer's telescope, if small. The components are well separated (see Plate 3), compared with many easier doubles; the secondary is also of the seventh magnitude, so that neither as respects closeness nor smallness of the secondary, is Rigel a difficult object. It is the combination of the two features which makes it a test-object. Kitchener says a 1-3/4-inch object-glass should show Rigel double; in earlier editions of his work he gave 2-3/4-inches as the necessary aperture. Smyth mentions Rigel as a test for a 4-inch aperture, with powers of from 80 to 120. A 3-inch aperture, however, will certainly show the companion. Rigel is an orange star, the companion blue.

Turn next to [lambda] the northernmost of the set of three stars in the head of Orion. This is a triple star, though an aperture of 3 inches will show it only as a double. The components are 5" apart, the colours pale white and violet. With the full powers of a 3-1/2-inch glass a faint companion may be seen above [lambda].

The star [zeta], the lowest in the belt, may be tried with a 3-1/2-inch glass. It is a close double, the components being nearly equal, and about 2-1/2" apart (see Plate 3).

For a change we will now try our telescope on a nebula, selecting the great nebula in the Sword. The place of this object is indicated in Plate 2. There can be no difficulty in finding it since it is clearly visible to the naked eye on a moonless night—the only sort of night on which an observer would care to look at nebulae. A low power should be employed.

The nebula is shown in Plate 3 as I have seen it with a 3-inch aperture. We see nothing of those complex streams of light which are portrayed in the drawings of Herschel, Bond, and Lassell, but enough to excite our interest and wonder. What is this marvellous light-cloud? One could almost imagine that there was a strange prophetic meaning in the words which have been translated "Canst thou loose the bands of Orion?" Telescope after telescope had been turned on this wonderful object with the hope of resolving its light into stars. But it proved intractable to Herschel's great reflector, to Lassell's 2-feet reflector, to Lord Rosse's 3-feet reflector, and even partially to the great 6-feet reflector. Then we hear of its supposed resolution into stars, Lord Rosse himself writing to Professor Nichol, in 1846, "I may safely say there can be little, if any, doubt as to the resolvability of the nebula;—all about the trapezium is a mass of stars, the rest of the nebula also abounding with stars, and exhibiting the characteristics of resolvability strongly marked."

It was decided, therefore, that assuredly the great nebula is a congeries of stars, and not a mass of nebulous matter as had been surmised by Sir W. Herschel. And therefore astronomers were not a little surprised when it was proved by Mr. Huggins' spectrum-analysis that the nebula consists of gaseous matter. How widely extended this gaseous universe may be we cannot say. The general opinion is that the nebulae are removed far beyond the fixed stars. If this were so, the dimensions of the Orion nebula would be indeed enormous, far larger probably than those of the whole system whereof our sun is a member. I believe this view is founded on insufficient evidence, but this would not be the place to discuss the subject. I shall merely point out that the nebula occurs in a region rich in stars, and if it is not, like the great nebula in Argo, clustered around a remarkable star, it is found associated in a manner which I cannot look upon as accidental with a set of small-magnitude stars, and notably with the trapezium which surrounds that very remarkable black gap within the nebula. The fact that the nebula shares the proper motion of the trapezium appears inexplicable if the nebula is really far out in space beyond the trapezium. A very small proper motion of the trapezium (alone) would long since have destroyed the remarkable agreement in the position of the dark gap and the trapezium which has been noticed for so many years.

But whether belonging to our system or far beyond it, the great nebula must have enormous dimensions. A vast gaseous system it is, sustained by what arrangements or forces we cannot tell, nor can we know what purposes it subserves. Mr. Huggins' discovery that comets have gaseous nuclei, (so far as the two he has yet examined show) may suggest the speculation that in the Orion nebula we see a vast system of comets travelling in extensive orbits around nuclear stars, and so slowly as to exhibit for long intervals of time an unchanged figure. "But of such speculations" we may say with Sir J. Herschel "there is no end."

To return to our telescopic observations:—The trapezium affords a useful test for the light-gathering power of the telescope. Large instruments exhibit nine stars. But our observer may be well satisfied with his instrument and his eye-sight if he can see five with a 3-1/2-inch aperture.[3] A good 3-inch glass shows four distinctly. But with smaller apertures only three are visible.

The whole neighbourhood of the great nebula will well repay research. The observer may sweep over it carefully on any dark night with profit. Above the nebula is the star-cluster 362 H. The star [iota] (double as shown in Plate 3) below the nebula is involved in a strong nebulosity. And in searching over this region we meet with delicate double, triple, and multiple stars, which make the survey interesting with almost any power that may be applied.

Above the nebula is the star [sigma], a multiple star. To an observer with a good 3-1/2-inch glass [sigma] appears as an octuple star. It is well seen, however, as a fine multiple star with a smaller aperture. Some of the stars of this group appear to be variable.

The star [rho] Orionis is an unequal, easy double, the components being separated by nearly seven seconds. The primary is orange, the smaller star smalt-blue (see Plate 3).

The middle star of the belt ([epsilon]) has a distant blue companion. This star, like [iota], is nebulous. In fact, the whole region within the triangle formed by stars [gamma], [kappa] and [beta] is full of nebulous double and multiple stars, whose aggregation in this region I do not consider wholly accidental.

We have not explored half the wealth of Orion, but leave much for future observation. We must turn, however, to other constellations.

Below Orion is Lepus, the Hare, a small constellation containing some remarkable doubles. Among these we may note [xi], a white star with a scarlet companion; [gamma], a yellow and garnet double; and [iota], a double star, white and pale violet, with a distant red companion. The star [kappa] Leporis is a rather close double, white with a small green companion. The intensely red star R Leporis (a variable) will be found in the position indicated in the map.

Still keeping within the boundary of our map, we may next turn to the fine cluster 2 H (vii.) in Monoceros. This cluster is visible to the naked eye, and will be easily found. The nebula 2 H (iv.) is a remarkable one with a powerful telescope.

The star 11 Monocerotis is a fine triple star described by the elder Herschel as one of the finest sights in the heavens. Our observer, however, will see it as a double (see Plate 3). [delta] Monocerotis is an easy double, yellow and lavender.

We may now leave the region covered by the map and take a survey of the heavens for some objects well seen at this season.

Towards the south-east, high up above the horizon, we see the twin-stars Castor and Pollux. The upper is Castor, the finest double star visible in the northern heavens. The components are nearly equal and rather more than 5" apart (see Plate 3). Both are white according to the best observers, but the smaller is thought by some to be slightly greenish.

Pollux is a coarse but fine triple star (in large instruments multiple). The components orange, grey, and lilac.

There are many other fine objects in Gemini, but we pass to Cancer.

The fine cluster Praesepe in Cancer may easily be found as it is distinctly visible to the naked eye in the position shown in Plate 1, Map I. In the telescope it is seen as shown in Plate 3.

The star [iota] Cancri is a wide double, the colours orange and blue.

Procyon, the first-magnitude star between Praesepe and Sirius, is finely coloured—yellow with a distant orange companion, which appears to be variable.

Below the Twins, almost in a line with them, is the star [alpha] Hydrae, called Al Fard, or "the Solitary One." It is a 2nd magnitude variable. I mention it, however, not on its own account, but as a guide to the fine double [epsilon] Hydrae. This star is the middle one of a group of three, lying between Pollux and Al Fard rather nearer the latter. The components of [epsilon] Hydrae are separated by about 3-1/2" (see Plate 3). The primary is of the fourth, the companion of the eighth magnitude; the former is yellow, the latter a ruddy purple. The period of [epsilon] Hydrae is about 450 years.

The constellation Leo Minor, now due east and about midway between the horizon and the zenith, is well worth sweeping over. It contains several fine fields.

Let us next turn to the western heavens. Here there are some noteworthy objects.

To begin with, there are the Pleiades, showing to the naked eye only six or seven stars. In the telescope the Pleiades appear as shown in Plate 3.

The Hyades also show some fine fields with low powers.

Aldebaran, the principal star of the Hyades, as also of the constellation Taurus, is a noted red star. It is chiefly remarkable for the close spectroscopic analysis to which it has been subjected by Messrs. Huggins and Miller. Unlike Betelgeuse, the spectrum of Aldebaran exhibits the lines corresponding to hydrogen, and no less than eight metals—sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, bismuth, tellurium, antimony, and mercury, are proved to exist in the constitution of this brilliant red star.

On the right of Aldebaran, in the position indicated in Plate 1, Map I., are the stars [zeta] and [beta] Tauri. If with a low power the observer sweep from [zeta] towards [beta], he will soon find—not far from [zeta] (at a distance of about one-sixth of the distance separating [beta] from [zeta]), the celebrated Crab nebula, known as 1 M. This was the first nebula discovered by Messier, and its discovery led to the formation of his catalogue of 103 nebulae. In a small telescope this object appears as a nebulous light of oval form, no traces being seen of the wisps and sprays of light presented in Lord Rosse's well known picture of the nebula.

Here I shall conclude the labours of our first half-hour among the stars, noticing that the examination of Plate 1 will show what other constellations besides those here considered are well situated for observation at this season. It will be remarked that many constellations well seen in the third half-hour (Chapter IV.) are favourably seen in the first also, and vice versa. For instance, the constellation Ursa Major well-placed towards the north-east in the first quarter of the year, is equally well-placed towards the north-west in the third, and similarly of the constellation Cassiopeia. The same relation connects the second and fourth quarters of the year.



The observations now to be commenced are supposed to take place during the second quarter of the year,—at ten o'clock on the 20th of April, or at nine on the 5th of May, or at eight on the 21st of May, or at seven on the 5th of June, or at hours intermediate to these on intermediate days.

We again look first for the Great Bear, now near the zenith, and thence find the Pole-star. Turning towards the north, we see Cassiopeia between the Pole-star and the horizon. Towards the north-west is the brilliant Capella, and towards the north-east the equally brilliant Vega, beneath which, and somewhat northerly, is the cross in Cygnus. The Milky Way passes from the eastern horizon towards the north (low down), and so round to the western horizon.

In selecting a region for special observation, we shall adopt a different plan from that used in the preceding "half-hour." The region on the equator and towards the south is indeed particularly interesting, since it includes the nebular region in Virgo. Within this space nebulae are clustered more closely than over any corresponding space in the heavens, save only the greater Magellanic cloud. But to the observer with telescopes of moderate power these nebulae present few features of special interest; and there are regions of the sky now well situated for observation, which, at most other epochs are either low down towards the horizon or inconveniently near to the zenith. We shall therefore select one of these, the region included in the second map of Plate 2, and the neighbouring part of the celestial sphere.

At any of the hours above named, the constellation Hercules lies towards the east. A quadrant taken from the zenith to the eastern horizon passes close to the last star ([eta]) of the Great Bear's tail, through [beta], a star in Bootes' head, near [beta] Herculis, between the two "Alphas" which mark the heads of Hercules and Ophiuchus, and so past [beta] Ophiuchi, a third-magnitude star near the horizon. And here we may turn aside for a moment to notice the remarkable vertical row of six conspicuous stars towards the east-south-east; these are, counting them in order from the horizon, [zeta], [epsilon], and [delta] Ophiuchi, [epsilon], [alpha], and [delta] Serpentis.

Let the telescope first be directed towards Vega. This orb presents a brilliant appearance in the telescope. Its colour is a bluish-white. In an ordinary telescope Vega appears as a single star, but with a large object-glass two distant small companions are seen. A nine-inch glass shows also two small companions within a few seconds of Vega. In the great Harvard refractor Vega is seen with no less than thirty-five companions. I imagine that all these stars, and others which can be seen in neighbouring fields, indicate the association of Vega with the neighbouring stream of the Milky Way.

Let our observer now direct his telescope to the star [epsilon] Lyrae. Or rather, let him first closely examine this star with the naked eye. The star is easily identified, since it lies to the left of Vega, forming with [zeta] a small equilateral triangle. A careful scrutiny suffices to indicate a peculiarity in this star. If our observer possesses very good eye-sight, he will distinctly recognise it as a "naked-eye double"; but more probably he will only notice that it appears lengthened in a north and south direction.[4] In the finder the star is easily divided. Applying a low power to the telescope itself, we see [epsilon] Lyrae as a wide double, the line joining the components lying nearly north and south. The southernmost component (the upper in the figure) is called [epsilon]^{1}, the other [epsilon]^{2}. Seen as a double, both components appear white.

Now, if the observer's telescope is sufficiently powerful, each of the components may be seen to be itself double. First try [epsilon]^{1}, the northern pair. The line joining the components is directed as shown in Plate 3. The distance between them is 3".2, their magnitudes 5 and 6-1/2, and their colours yellow and ruddy. If the observer succeeds in seeing [epsilon]^{1} fairly divided, he will probably not fail in detecting the duplicity of [epsilon]^{2}, though this is a rather closer pair, the distance between the components being only 2".6. The magnitudes are 5 and 5-1/2, both being white. Between [epsilon]^{1} and [epsilon]^{2} are three faint stars, possibly forming with the quadruple a single system.

Let us next turn to the third star of the equilateral triangle mentioned above—viz. to the star [zeta] Lyrae. This is a splendid but easy double. It is figured in Plate 3, but it must be noticed that the figure of [zeta] and the other nine small figures are not drawn on the same scale as [epsilon] Lyrae. The actual distance between the components of [zeta] Lyra is 44", or about one-fourth of the distance separating [epsilon]^{1} from [epsilon]^{2}. The components of [zeta] are very nearly equal in magnitude, in colour topaz and green, the topaz component being estimated as of the fifth magnitude, the green component intermediate between the fifth and sixth magnitudes.

We may now turn to a star not figured in the map, but readily found. It will be noticed that the stars [epsilon], [alpha], [beta], and [gamma] form, with two small stars towards the left, a somewhat regular hexagonal figure—a hexagon, in fact, having three equal long sides and three nearly equal short sides alternating with the others. The star [eta] Lyrae forms the angle next to [epsilon]. It is a wide and unequal double, as figured in Plate 3. The larger component is azure blue; the smaller is violet, and, being only of the ninth magnitude, is somewhat difficult to catch with apertures under 3 inches.

The star [delta]^{2} Lyrae is orange, [delta]^{1} blue. In the same field with these are seen many other stars.

The stars [gamma]^{1} and [gamma]^{2} may also be seen in a single field, the distance between them being about half the moon's mean diameter. The former is quadruple, the components being yellow, bluish, pale blue, and blue.

Turn next to the stars [beta] and [gamma] Lyrae, the former a multiple, the latter an unequal double star. It is not, however, in these respects that these stars are chiefly interesting, but for their variability. The variability of [gamma] has not indeed been fully established, though it is certain that, having once been less bright, [gamma] is now considerably brighter than [beta]. The change, however, may be due to the variation of [beta] alone. This star is one of the most remarkable variables known. Its period is 12d. 21h. 53m. 10s. In this time it passes from a maximum brilliancy—that of a star of the 3.4 magnitude—to a minimum lustre equal to that of a star of the 4.3 magnitude, thence to the same maximum brilliancy as before, thence to another minimum of lustre—that of a star of the 4.5 magnitude—and so to its maximum lustre again, when the cycle of changes recommences. These remarkable changes seem to point to the existence of two unequal dark satellites, whose dimensions bear a much greater proportion to those of the bright components of [beta] Lyrae than the dimensions of the members of the Solar System bear to those of the sun. In this case, at any rate, the conjecture hazarded about Algol, that the star revolves around a dark central orb, would be insufficient to account for the observed variation.

Nearly midway between [beta] and [gamma] lies the wonderful ring-nebula 57 M, of which an imperfect idea will be conveyed by the last figure of Plate 3. This nebula was discovered in 1772, by Darquier, at Toulouse. It is seen as a ring of light with very moderate telescopic power. In a good 3-1/2-inch telescope the nebula exhibits a mottled appearance and a sparkling light. Larger instruments exhibit a faint light within the ring; and in Lord Rosse's great Telescope "wisps of stars" are seen within, and faint streaks of light stream from the outer border of the ring. This nebula has been subjected to spectrum-analysis by Mr. Huggins. It turns out to be a gaseous nebula! In fact, ring-nebulae—of which only seven have been detected—seem to belong to the same class as the planetary nebulae, all of which exhibit the line-spectrum indicative of gaseity. The brightest of the three lines seen in the spectrum of the ring-nebula in Lyra presents a rather peculiar appearance, "since it consists," says Mr. Huggins, "of two bright dots, corresponding to sections of the ring, and between these there is not darkness, but an excessively faint line joining them. This observation makes it probable that the faint nebulous matter occupying the central portion is similar in constitution to that of the ring."

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