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each divided into a certain number of equal parts, by reference to which the motion of the heaven.y bodies might be followed, with far greater precision, than had ever been previously obtained.
Armed with a new and more perfect instrument, the astronomer resumes his great investigation. Finding it now possible, to mark out the sun's path in the heavens, with certainty, by means of his brazen ecliptic, he discovers that the moon and planets in each revolution pass across the sun's track, and spend nearly an equal amount pof time on the north and south sides of the ecliptic. This discovery led to a more accurate determination of the periods of revolution of the planets. The interval was noted from one passage across the ecliptic to the next on the same side, and these intervals marked with accuracy the planetary periods. It now became possible to fix, with greater certainty, the relative positions of the sun and moon, and problems were once more resumed which had thus far baffled every effort of human genius. The phases of the moon, the very first point of investigation, had never yet yielded up its hidden cause, and those terrific phenomena, solar and lunar eclipses, which had long covered the earth with terror and dismay, were wrapped in mystery, and their explanation had resisted the sagacity of the most powerful and gifted intellects
No one has ever witnessed the going out of the sun in dim eclipse, even now when its most minute phenomena are predicted with rigorous exactitude, without a feeling of involuntary dismay. What then must have been the effect upon the human mind in those ages of the world, when the cause was unknown, and when these terrific exhibitions burst on earth's inhab itants unheralded and unannounced ? Here then was an investigation, not prompted by curiosity alone, but involving the peace and security of man in all coming ages.
We cannot doubt the causes of the solar eclipse were first detected. It was observed, that no eclipse of the sun ever occurred, when the moon was visible. Even during a solar eclipse, when the sun's light had entirely faded away, and the stars and planets stole gently upon the sight in the sombre and unnatural twilight, the moon was sought for in vain; she was never to be seen. This fact excited curiosity and gave
rise to a careful and critical examination of the place in which the moon should be found, immediately after a solar eclipse; and it was soon discovered that on the night following the day of eclipse, the moon was seen in her crescent shape very near to the sun and but a short distance from the sun's path. By remarking the moon's place, next before a solar eclipse and that immediately following, it was seen that at the time of the occurrence of the eclipse, the moon was actually passing from the west to the east side of the sun's place, and finally a little calculation showed that a coincidence of the sun and moon in the heavens took place at the precise time at which the sun had been eclipsed. The conclusion was irresistible, and the great fact was announced to the world, that the sun's light was hidden by the interposition of the dark body of the moon.
Having reached this important result with entire certainty, the explanation of the moon's phases followed in rapid succession. For it now became manifest, that the moon shone with borrowed light,
and that her brilliancy came from the reflected beams of the sun. This was readily demonstrated by the following facts. When the moon was so situated chat the side next to the sun, (the illuminated one), was turned from the eye of the observer, (as was the case in a solar eclipse), then the moon's surface next to the observer, was always found to be entirely black Pursuing her journey from this critical point, the moon was next seen near the sun, in the evening twilight, as a slender thread of light, a very small portion of her illuminated surface being now visible. Day after day this visible portion increases, until finally the moon rises as the sun sets, full orbed and round, being directly oppo site the sun, and turning her entire illuminated surface towards the eye of the observer. By like degrees she loses her light as she approaches, and finally becomes invisible as she passes by the sun. From this examination it became evident that the moon was a globular body, non-luminous, and revolving in an orbit, comprehended entirely within that described by the sun, and consequently, nearer to the earth than the sun. Having ascertained this fact, it was concluded that among all the moving heavenly bodies, the periods of revolution indicated their relative distances from the earth. Hence Mars was regarded as more distant than the sun, Jupiter more remote than Mars, and Sat urn the most distant, as it was the slowest moving of all the planets.
After reaching to a knowledge of the causes pro ducing the eclipses of the sun and the phases of the moon, it remained yet to resolve the mystery of the lunar eclipse. It was far more difficult to render a satisfactory account of this phenomenon than either of
the preceding. The light of the moon was not inter.
earth, which cast this circular shadow, should be of a globular form.
Having now attained to a clear and satisfactory explanation of the two grand phenomena, solar and lunar eclipses, the question naturally arose, why was not the sun eclipsed in each revolution of the moon ? and how happened it that the moon in the full, did not always pass through the earth's shadow ? An examination of the moon's path among the fixed stars gave to these questions a clear and positive answer. It was found that the sun and moon did not perform their revolutions in the same plane. The moon's route among the stars crossed the sun's route under a certain angle, and it thus frequently happened, that at the new and full, the moon occupied some portion of her orbit too remote from that of the sun to render either a lunar or solar eclipse possible.
Rapidly have we traced the career of discovery. The toil and watching of centuries have been condensed into a few moments of time, and questions requiring ages for their solution have been asked, only to be answered. In connexion with the investigations just developed, and as a consequence of their successful prosecution, the query arose whether in case science had reached to a true exposition of the causes producing the eclipse of the sun, was it not possible to stretch forward in time, and anticipate and predict the coming of these dread phenomena?
To those who have given but little attention to the subject, even in our own day, with all the aids of modern science, the prediction of an eclipse, seems sufficiently mysterious and unintelligible. How then it was possible, thousands of years ago, to accomplish