Camille Flammarion Astronomy for Amateurs

ISBN 13: 9781153789073

Astronomy for Amateurs

9781153789073: Astronomy for Amateurs
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Excerpt: ...goes on in regular order. And even in our own times, have we not seen the people terrified at the sight of a flaming comet? Has not the end of the world by the agency of comets been often enough predicted? These predictions are so to speak periodic; they crop up each time that the return of these cosmical formations is announced by the astronomers, and always meet with a certain number of timid souls who are troubled as to our destinies. Pg 181 To-day we know that these wanderers are subject to the general laws that govern the universe. The great Newton announced that, like the planets, they were obedient to universal attraction; that they must follow an extremely elongated curve, and return periodically to the focus of the ellipse. From the basis of these data Halley calculated the progress of the comet of 1682, and ascertained that its motions presented such similarity with the apparitions of 1531 and 1607, that he believed himself justified in identifying them and in announcing its return about the year 1759. Faithful to the call made upon it, irresistibly attracted by the Orb of Day, the comet, at first pale, then ardent and incandescent, returned at the date assigned to it by calculation, three years after the death of the illustrious astronomer. Shining upon his grave it bore witness to the might of human thought, able to snatch the profoundest secrets from the Heavens! This fine comet returns every seventy-six years, to be visible from the Earth, and has already been seen twenty-four times by the astonished eyes of man. It appears, however, to be diminishing in magnitude. Its last appearance was in 1835, and we shall see it again in 1910, a little sooner than its average period, the attraction of Jupiter having this time slightly accelerated its course, while in 1759 it retarded it. Pg 182 The comets thus follow a very elongated orbit, either elliptic, turning round the Sun, or parabolic, dashing out into space. In the first case, they are...

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