Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ever there is a sun, there must be a planetary |tion the matter of these binary systems is, system; and wherever there is a planetary compared with that of our solar system, we system, there must be life and intelligence.”* have no means whatever of knowing; but This is the way in which it seems we worms even granting that each individual of the pair of the Earth feel ourselves at liberty to deal were a sun like ours, in the nature of its matewith our Almighty Creator; dogmatically in- rial, and its state of condensation, is it probasisting that every scene of existence in which ble that it resembles our Sun also in having He may have displayed His omnipotence, is planets revolving about it? A system of but a repetition of that particular one in planets revolving about, or among, a pair which we have our allotted place! As if He of Suns, which are at the same time revolving had but one pattern for Universal Creation ! about one another, is so complex a scheme only one scheme for peopling and dealing with [apparently), so impossible to arrange in a infinitude! O, that the clay should think thus stable manner, that the assumption of the exof Him that fashioneth it! + Forgetting, in an istence of such schemes, without a vestige of exulting moment of blindness and presump- evidence, can hardly require refutation. No tion, His own awful words: My thoughts are doubt, if we were really required to provide not as your thoughts, neither are your ways my such a binary system of Suns with attendant ways. For as the lleavens are higher than the planets, this would be best done by putting Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, the planets so near to one Sun that they and my thoughts than your thoughts ? I should not be sensibly affected by the other;

We are now, however, about to people the and this is accordingly what has been proFixed Stars. The only proof that they are posed. For, as has been well said by Sir John the .centres of planetary systems, resides in Herschell, of the supposed planets in making the assumption that these Stars are like the this proposal, “ unless closely nestled under Sun; and as resembling him in their nature the protecting wing of their immediate supeand qualities, so having the same offices and rior, the sweep of the other Sun, in his periappendages, - independent sources of light, helion passage round their own, might carry and thence probably of heat; therefore having them off, or whirl them into orbits utterly inattendant planets, to which they may impart consistent with the existence of their inhabsuch light and heat,—and these planets in- itants.” “ To assume the existence of the habitants living under and enjoying those inhabitants, in spite of such dangers, and to benign influences. Everything here depends provide against the dangers by placing them on this proposition, that the Stars are like the so close to one Sun as to be out of the reach Sun; and it becomes essential to examine of the other, though the whole distance of the what evidence we have of the exactness of two may not, and as we know in some cases their likeness. In the Preface to his Second does not, exceed the dimensions of our solar Edition, the Essayist, whose scientific knowl-system, is showing them all the favor which is edge few will venture to impugn, boldly as possible. But in making this provision, it is serts that “ man's knowledge of the physical overlooked that it may not be possible to keep properties of the luminaries which he discerns them in permanent orbits so near to the se in the skies, is, even now, almost nothing ;lected centre. Their sun may be a vast sphere and " such being the state of our knowledge, of luminous vapor, and the planets plunged as bearing on the doctrine of the plurality of into this atmosphere, may, instead of describworlds, the time appeared to be not inoppor-ing regular orbits, plough their way in spiral tune for a calm discussion of the question, paths through the nebulous abyss of its cenupon which, accordingly,” he adds, “I have tral nucleus."* ventured in the following pages.”

In the In dealing with the Single Stars, which same preface he has ably condensed into a are, like the Sun, self-luminous, can they be single paragraph his views on the nature and proved, like him, to be definite dense masses ? extent of our present knowledge on the sub- (His density is about that of water.] Or are ject of the Fixed Stars. ||

they, or many of them, luminous masses in a In the opening of the chapter devoted to far more diffused state, visually contracted to this subject (chap. viii.), he admits “ the spe- points through their immense distance ? Some cial evidence as to the probability of these of those which we have the best means of exstars containing, in themselves, or in accom- amining are one-third, or even less, in mass, panying planets, inhabitants of any kind, "is, than he; and if Sirius, for instance, be in this indeed, slight, either way.

diffused condition,--though that would not of As to Clustered and Double Stars, they itself prevent his having planets,-it would appear to give us, he says, but little promise make him so unlike our Sun, as much to of inhabitants. In what degree of condensa- break the force of the presumption that he * Pp. 164, 165.

must have planets as he has. Again : As far Isaiah, lv, 8, 9,

Isaiah, xlv, 9,

Ś Essay, p. 244, | Pp, vii, viii,

* Essay, pp. 243, 244.

back as our knowledge of our Sun extends, story of our own planet, as one in which such his has been a permanent condition of bright- grand changes have been constantly going on, ness; yet many of the Fixed Stars not only the certainty that in by far the greatest part undergo changes, but periodical, and possibly of the duration of its existence it has been progressive changes, -whence it may be in- tenanted by creatures entirely different from ferred; perhaps, that they are not, generally, those which give an interest, and thence a in the same permanent condition as our Sun. persuasiveness, to the belief of inhabitants in As to the evidence of their revolution on their worlds appended to each star,—the impossiaxis, this has been inferred from their having bility of which appears, in the gravest considperiodical recurrences of fainter and brighter eration of transferring to other worlds such lustre, as if revolving orbs with one side dark- interests as belong to our race in this world, ened by spots. Of these, five only can be at all these considerations, it would seem, should present spoken of by astronomers* with preci- have prevented that old and arbitrary consion. Nothing is more probable than that jecture from growing up, among a generation these periodical changes indicate the revolu- professing philosophical caution and scientific tion of these stellar masses on their axis,-a discipline, into a settled belief. Finally, it universal law, apparently, of all the large will be time enough to speculate about the incompact masses of the Universe, but by no habitants of the planets which belong to such means inferring their being, or having accom- systems, as soon as we shall have ascertained panying planets, inhabited. The Sun's rota- that there are such planets, or that there is tion is not shown, intelligibly, connected with one such.* its having near it the inhabited Earth. In In the Dialogue, written after the first edithe meantime, in so far as these stars are peri- tion of the “ Essay” bad appeared, the Essayodical, they are proved to be, not like, but ist greatly strengthened the position for which unlike our Sun. The only real point of re- he had contended in it, by an important passemblance, then, is that of being self-luminous, sage containing the results of the eminent asin the highest degree ambiguous and incon-tronomer, M. Struve's recent examination of clusive, and furnishing no argument entitled double stars, and the result of his elaborate to be deemed one from analogy. Humboldt and comprehensive comparison of the whole deems the force of analogy to tend even in body of facts in stellar astronomy: Among the opposite direction.

the brighter stars, arrives at the conclu“ After all,” he asks,t " is the assumption sion, that every FOURTH such star is physiof satellites [attendant planets] to the Fixed cally double; and that a completed knowledge Stars so absolutely necessary ? If we were to of doubled stars may prove every THIRD begin from the outer planets, Jupiter, etc., bright star to be physically double ! And in analogy might seem to require that all planets the case of stars of inferior magnitude, that have satellites; yet this is not so with Mars, the number of insulated stars, though indeed Venus, Mercury,” to which may now be added greater than that of such compound systems, the thirty Planetoids.-making a much greater is

, nevertheless, only three times, perhaps onnumber of bodies that have not, than that ly twice as great. Thus the loose evidence have satellites. The assumption, then, that of resemblance between our Sun and the fixed the Fixeil Stars are of exactly the same nature stars, becomes teebler the more it is examinas the Sun, was originally a bold guess; but ed; and the assumption of stellar planetary there has not since been a vestige of any con- systems appears, when closely scrutinized, to firmatory fact,—no planet, nor anything fairly dwindle away to nothing.t indicating the existence of one revolving Now, to so much of the foregoing facts and round a fixed star, has ever hitherto been dis- speculations as are contained in the Essay, cerned. And the subsequent discovery of fiom which we have faithfully and carefully nebulæ, binary systems, clusters of stars, peri- extracted the substance, in order that our odical stars,—of varied and accelerating peri- readers may judge for theinselves, Sir David ods of such stars,-all seem to point the other Brewster answers, in effect, and generally in way; leaving, though possibly facts small in words, thus :amount, the original assumption a mere guess, The greatest and grandest truth in astronounsupported by all that ihree centuries of my, is the motion of the solar system, advancmost diligent, and in other respects, success-ing with all the planets and satellites in the ful research, have been able to bring to light. heavens, at the rate of fifty-seven miles a All the knowledge of times succeeding Coper second, round some distant invisible body, in nicus, Galileo, and Kepler, who might well an orbit of such inconceivable dimensions, believe the stars to be in every sense suns,

that millions of years may be required for a among other things, the disclosure of the his- single orbit. When we consider that this like our own, revolving in like manner round one of a binary system, on “high probabiliour sun, [?] or round their common centre of ty," from “ the motion of our own system gravity, the mind rejects, almost with indig- round a distant centre."* The great truth of nation, the ignoble sentiment, that man is the this motion, he says the Essayist “has comonly being performing this immeasurable jour- pletely misrepresented, foreseeing its influney-and that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and ence on the mind as an argument for more Neptune, with their bright array of regal worlds than one.”+ What the Essayist had train-bearers, are but as colossal blocks of life- said on the subject, was this :$ he speaks of less clay, encumbering the Earth as a drag," the attempt to show, that the Sun, carrying and mocking the creative majesty of Heaven. with it the whole solar system, is in motion; From the birth of man to the extinction of his and the further attempt to show the direction race [!) the system to which he belongs, will of that motion ;-and again, the hypothesis have described but an infinitesimal arc in that that the Sun, itself, revolves round some disgrand cosmical orbit in which it is destined to tant object in space.” These minute inquiries move. This affords a new argument for the and bold conjectures, he says, “ cannot throw plurality of worlds. Since every fixed star any light on the question, whether any part must have planets, the fact of our system re- besides the earth be inhabited : any more than volving round a similar system of planets, fur- the investigation of the movements of the nishes a new argument from analogy; for as ocean and their laws, can prove or disprove there is at least one inhabited planet in the the existence of marine plants and animals.one system, there must for the same reason They do not, on that account, cease to be imbe one in the other, and consequently as portant and interesting objects of speculation, many as there are systems in the Universe.* but they do not belong to our subject.” As Thus our system is not absolutely fixed in to the Sun's motion, we are bound to say, space, but is connected with the other systems that the Astronomer Royal has recently dein the Universe.

centre must be a sun, with attendant planets * See them specified, p, 251, † Cosmos, iii. 373.

* Ch. viii., passim. † Dialogue, pp. 20—23.

clared, that “every astronomer, who has exThe fixed Stars are suns of other systems, amined the matter carefully, has come to the whose planets are invisible from their dis- conclusion of Sir William Herschell, that the tance, as are ours from the nearest fixed star. whole solar system is moving towards a point Every single star shining by its own native in the constellation Hercules." Before quitlight is the centre of a planetary system like ting this part of the subject, we may state that our own--the lamp that lights, the stove that the Essayist, in his second Preface.|| points heats, and the power that guides in their or- out the insecure character of astronomical calbits, inhabited worlds, like our own. Many culations, as to the amount of absolute light are double, with a system of planets round ascribed to some of the fixed stars. It has each, or the centre of gravity of both. No one been estimated that the illuminating power of can believe, that two suns would be placed in Alpha Centauri is nearly double that of the sun, the heavens, for no other purpose than to re- placed at that distance, which is two hundred volve round their common centre of gravity. thousand times as far off as is the Sun; but It is “highly probable,” that our Sun is one Sir John Herschell will not concur in more of a binary system, and has at present an un- of the calculation than attributes to the star seen partner; and we are “ entitled to con- the emission of more light than our Sun.clude” that all the other binary systems have Surely the critical and precarious character at least an inhabited planet: wherever there of such calculations should not be lost sight of is a self-luminous fixed or movable Sun, there by candid inquirers, but incline them to scan must be a planetary system; and wherever somewhat closely any pretensions tinctured there is a planetary system, there must be by astronomic dogmatism. life and intelligence.

One immense step more, however--and it Apart from the assertion of his cardinal is our last, brings to "the outskirts of creaprinciple with which we are familiar, namely, tion," as the Essayist calls it—the Nebulæ : that since our Sun has an inhabited planet, and here we find him once more confronted all others must; and also, that all planets must by his indefatigable and implacable opponent. be inhabited ;-the argumentative value of We must therefore take our biggest and best thes two chapters seems to lie in this, that mental telescope to behold these two Specks they annihilate on the Essayist's points of un- intellectual, so far off in infinitude, wrangling likeliness between our Sun and other Fixed about a faint cloud vastly further off than Stars, inasmuch as it, together with so many themselves. Do you see bow angry one of of them, is one of a binary system ; wherefore them looks, and how provokingly stolid the what is true of it, is true of them, et vice versa. other ? 'Tis all about the nature of that same He bases his proposition, viz., that our Sun is

* More Worlds than One, p. 164.
Ibid., pp. 119.

Essay, p. 257. * More Worlds than One, ch. vi., passim.

Lect. on Astron., 2d. edit. (1849, † Ibid., ch. viii, passim.

v Pp. ix, x.

It is probar

cloud, or Nebula ; and if we could only hear and suggest modes of calculating their tenuity. what they said, we might catch a chord or and showing how extreme it is. two of the music of the spheres! The Essayist ble,” said Lord Rosse, in a paper which we is required, by his brother speck, to believe, ourselves heard him read not long ago, from that the faintly-luminous patch at which they the chair of the Royal Society, “ that in the are gazing—a thousandth part of the visible Nebular systems, motion exists

. If we see a breadth of our Sun-contains in it more life system with a distinct spiral arrangement, all than exists in as many such systems as the analogy leads us to conclude that there has unassisted eye can see stars in the heavens, been motion; and that if there has been mo on the clearest winter night :-a view of the tion, that motion still continues.". ...“ Among greatness of creation so stupendous, that the the Nebulæ," he says, “ there are vast numbers astounded speck, the Essayist, asks for a mo- much too faint to be sketched or measured ment's time to consider the matter.

with any prospect of advantage: the most “ We are entitled to draw the conclusion,” powerful instruments we possess showing in says the other, " that these Nebulæ are clus- them nothing of an organized structure, but ters of stars, at such an immense distance from merely a confused mass of nebulosity, of varyour own system, that each star of which they ing brightness."* The Essayist makes powerare composed is the sun or centre of a system ful use, moreover, of Sir John Herschell's of planets; and that these planets are inhabit-celebrated observation of the Magellanic ed-like our Earth, the seat of vegetable, Clouds, lying near the South Pole; exhibitanimal, and intellectual life:"* that all the ing the coexistence, in a limited compass, and Nebulæ are resolvable into stars; and appear in indiscriminate position, of stars, clusters of as Nebulæ only because they are more dis- stars, nebulæ regular and irregular, and netant than the region in which they can appear bular streaks and patches, things different not as stars. The conclusion, however, at which merely to us, but in themselves: nebulæ, side the Essayist arrives, after an elaborate exam- by side with stars and clusters of stars; neination of evidence, and especially of the latest bulous matter resolvable close to nebulous discoveries in this dim and distant region by matter irresolvable ; - the last and widest Sir John Herschell and the Earl of Rosse, step by which the dimensions of the Universe is—that “ Nebulæ are vast masses of incohe- have been expanded, in the notions of eager rent or gaseous matter, of immense tenuity, speculators, being checked by a completer diffused in forms more or less irregular, but knowledge, and a sayer spirit of speculation. + all of them destitute of any regular system of In discussing such matters as these, he finally solid moving boilies. So far, then,” he observes—“ It is difficult to make men feel concludes, “ as these Nebulæ are concerned, that so much ignorance can lie close to so the improbability of their being inhabited ap- much knowledge; to make them believe that pears to amount to the highest point that can they have been allowed to discover so much, be conceived. We may, by the indulgence and yet are not allowed to discover more." I of fancy, people the summer clouds, or the In alluding to the Nebulæ, as subjects of beams of the aurora borealis, with living be- our most powerful telescopic observation, the ings of the same kind of substance as those Essayist speaks in a' tone of sarcasm concernbright appearances themselves; and in doing ing the shining dots,"—the “ lumps of light so, we are not making any bolder assertion which are rendered apparent amidst them: than when we stock the Nebulæ with inhabi- asking, what are these lumps ? (1.) How tants, and call them, in that sense, inhabited large? (2.) At what distances?. (3.) Of what worlds.” | The Essayist contends that the structure ? (4.) Of what use ?-adding, he argument for the vastness of the scheme of the must be a bold man who undertakes to anUniverse, suggested by the resolution of the swer the question, that each is a Sun, with Nebulæ, is found to be untenable :-inasmuch attendant systems of planets. Sir David, exas the greatest astronomers now agree in be- ceedingly irate, says, “ We accept the challieving Nebulæ to have distances of the same lenge, and appeal to our readers :"-(1.) The order as Fixed Stars. Their filmy appearance size of the dot, or lump, is large enough to be is a true indication of a highly attenuated sub-a Sun. (2.) He cannot answer this, for want stance: so attenuated as to destroy all proba- of knowing the apparent distance between bility of their being inhabited worlds. With the centres of the dots.' (3.) Like our Sunthis opinion as to the tenuity of Nebulæ : It will consist of a luminous envelope, enclosagrees the absence of all observed motion among ing a dark nucleus. (4.) Of no conceivable their parts; while the extraordinary spiral use, but to give light to planets, or to the solid arrangement of many of them, prove that nuclei of which they consist.” In his turn, he nevertheless many of them really have motion, asks the Essayist what is the size, distance,

structure, and use of the dots, upon his hypo* More Worlds than One, p. 176.

* Dial., p. 18.

† Essay, p, 214, † Essay, p. 211.

Essay, pp. 235, 236. | Ibid., p. 216.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

If we

thesis? The Essayist, he observes, is silent;* Jupiter and Saturn-appear spheres of water,
but in his Essay, he had said, distinctly enough, or aqueous vapor. The Earth has a conside-
Let us not wrangle about words. By all rable atmosphere of air and of vapor; while
means let these. dots be stars, if we know on Venus or Mercury-so close to the sun-
about what we are speaking; if a star mear, we see nothing of a gaseous or aqueous at-
merely, a luminous dot in the sky. But that mosphere; they and Mars differing little in
these stars shall resemble, in their nature, density from the earth.
Stars of the first magnitude, and that such The Earth's orbit, according to the Es-
stars shall resemble Our Sun, are surely very sayist's theory, is THE TEMPERATE ZONE OF
bold structures of assumption, to build on such THE SOLAR SYstem, where only the play of
a basis. Some nebulæ are resolvable into dis- hot and cold, moist and dry, is possible. Water
tinct points: but what would it amount to ? and gases, clouds and vapors, form, mainly, the
That the substance of all nebulæ is not con- the planets in the outer part of the solar sys-
tinuous; separate, and separable into distinct tem; while masses, such as result from the tu-
luminous elements : - nebulæ are, it would sion of the most solid materials, lie nearer the
then seem, as it were of a curdled or granu- Sun, and are found principally within the orbit
lated texture ; they have run into lumps of lof Jupiter. After a further exposition of bis
light, or been formed originally of such lumps." "theory,” the Essayist observes that it agrees
And then follow some very ingenious and re- with the nebular hypothesis, so far as it ap-
fined speculations, into which we have not plies to the Solar System; exactly, and very
space to enter; and indeed we may be well sternly, repudiating that hypothesis as it ap-
content with what we have done, having trav- plies to the Universe in general.*
elled from a tolerable depth in the crust of our allow ourselves,” says he, “ to speculate at all
own little planet, past planet after planet, star on physical grounds respecting the origin of
after star, till we reached the nebulous out- the Earth, the hypothesis, that it has passed
skirts of creation;" accompanied by two Men- through a fluid and a gaseous condition, does
tors of Infinitude, --whispering into our car- not appear more extravagant than any other
one, that life, animal, intellectual, moral, was cosmogonical hypothesis: not even if we sup
swarming around us at ever step; the other, that pose that the other bodies of the Solar System
that life ceased with our own Earth, as far as have shared in the like changes. But, that all
we were able to detect its existence, and giv- the stars and the nebulæ have gone, or are
ing us very solemn and mysterious reasons going through, a series of changes such as
why it should be so.

those by which the Solar System has been
Our Essayist, however, is not exhausted by formed, --the nebular hypothesis, as it applies
the efforts, he has made in his destructive to the Universe in general, is precisely the
career. If he be a "proud setter down ” of doctrine which I here reject, giving my rea-
cosmological systems, he determines, in turn, sons.”+
to be a "putter up: ” and so presents us with The whole of the Chapter devoted to "the
his own Theory of the Solar System; and an Theory of the Solar System,” is distinguished
explanation of the mode in which all appear-by remarkable ingenuity and originality. It
ances in the Universe beyond may be recon- is, however, that entitled the Argument from
ciled with it. “It may serve” he says, to Design, which independently of all connection
confirm his argument, it he give a description with the speculations of the author as already
of the system which shall continue and con- laid before our readers, is worthiest of consid-
nect his views of the constitution and pecu- eration, by all interested in Natural Theology.
liarițies as to physical circumstances of each It touches many topics which must have occu-
of the planets. It will help us in our specula- pied the profoundest thoughts of mankind,
tion, if we can regard the planets as not only and touches them with the utmost caution and
a collection, but a scheme ;-if we can give delicacy. In the 34th Section will be found a
not an Enunciation only, but a Theory. passage of singular boldness and imaginative
Now, such a SCHEME, such a Theory ap- eloquence; but liable, in our opinion, to seri-
pears to offer itself to us.” † The scope of ous misconception, and susceptible of misrep-
this scheme, or theory, is, as we some time ago resentation--by those, at least, who are either
saw, to make our earth, in point of astronomi- unable, or indisposed, to weigh the entire
cal fact and reality, the largest Planetary chapter, and ascertain its real value and ten-
Body in the solar system; its domestic hearth; deney. Some expressions have startled us
the only part of the frame revoiving round the not a little, when reflecting that they relate to
Sun which has become a “ World.” We the possible mode of action of Omniscient
must, however, make short work of it. Omnipotence; and we shall be gratified by
The planets exterior to Mars — especially seeing them vindicated or explained in the

next edition of his “

Essay." * More Worlds than One, p, 215,

* More Worlds than One, p. 815, and note. † Essay, p. 298.

† Ibid., p. 315.

« AnteriorContinuar »