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The Wonders of the Stars.

Tha following is the first of a "jpries of--., ar : ■-. mostly of a scientific character -a arc being written for the Ei.LE3^' ,jt MKRK GrUAHDIAN' : — No. 1. How mysterious are some of: the pbo-r - noraona observed m the heavenly, bodies I f How can we account for the variations of , some of the stars ? As an example, the . star Algol, m the constellation Perseus, •for 2 days, 13 } s hours is a star of tho second magnitudo ; then it suddenly decreases, and m 3.V hours is diminished to the fourth magnitude. It then increases m brilliancy, and m a further period of 3j hours again attains its maxim. All this takes place iv 2 days, 21 hours, 49 minutes. Another star, Mira, m tha constellation Cetus, for 5 months remains invisible, then it reappears, its light gradually increasing for three months, and for 15 d tys it is equal to a brilliant star of the the second magnitude, repeating variations m. a fixed period of 331 days, 15 hoars, 10 minutes. We are accustomed to regard the socalled " fixed stars " as being absolutely stationary m the heavens. This, however is not so, as the whole of the sttrs are iv rapid movement. As an ex*mple r Arcturas is calculated to move through spi^e at the prodigious voloaity afc no less than 197,000 miles an hour, or 54 aiilas par second. In a century, therefore, this great star traverses no less than ono hundred and seventy thousand tnillioas of miles. And yet to our vision his position m tke haavens is practically unaltered, s:> vast is his distance from us. Our sun itself is calculated to be travelling at tha annual rate of 153,000,000 miles towards tho bright star Vega, which is now such a brillant spectacle m the zenith ; but as that star is calulated to be more than 115,000,000,000,000 miles distant from tho sun, we need not be* alarmed lest tk«re should be a collision m our time ; as evoa supposing Vega to be advancing towards the sun at the same terrific rate, tke crash would not take place uatil 375,000 veirs hence, so prodigious is spaoe. Vega, however, is by no means a d;sta»t star, but may be regarded as one of our nearest neighbours, another bright star, Capella, beinw reckoned to be more than, four times her distance. But the vast . body of the stars are plunged m the illimitable, fearful abyss of space, infin;t»ly more profound and incalculable distaDoes, it being only of the very nearest stars that the parallax can be be taken, and the distance thereby calculated, A celestial phenomenon which has given rise to much popular error, is thtt - of the " shooting stars." It was long imagined by the uneducated that shooting stars were really fixed stars falling from their position m the heavens, and a brilliant display such as that ef November, 1886 (which will be repeated m 1899), gives rise to considerable perturbationamongst the ignoran 1 . These brilliant visitants, however, are but minutd fragments of cosmic matter, a belt of whica appears to revolve round the sua, and through which the earth travels io tke months of August and November, whish, rushing through space at an infinite ispaed, are raised by friction with our atmosphere to a so m . intense that, m a frw seconds from the first impact with the air they are resolved into gis. Tk» average weight of these little bodies is j estimated' at about two ounces,' but occasionally - much larger bodies come withia o.ur ranges which continue m an iacoadesoant state for several seconds before being . consumed, and jivsenting a., most brilliant i appearance. These are, popularly termed meteors. And occasionally, yet larger bodirs, of metillic origin, which have bam wandering through space for ages, come within the sphere of attraction of out earth, and plunge, with deafening roar, into the soil. These are tke meteorites, or " thunder bolts," which may bs seen. m many of our rnusems. Hiw absolutely regular and immutable are the laws whi ;h govern tho movements of the heavenly bodies ! The eerth performs its journey of 280,000,000 miles round the s.min 385 days, 6 hours,. 9 minutes, 10 seconds, and 75-hiindredtks of a second, and, from year to year, and from age to age, travelling over the.exact position, relatively to the sun, it had previously traversed ; and this notwithstanding that it it is rushing along at the rate of 68,000 miles an hour, and that it is also revolving upon its own axis at the rate (at the equater) of 1,000 miles an hour. These two movements are performed with such exact and absolute punctuality that astronomers can calculate with unfailing accuracy, and without the error of a fraction of a second, astronomical events which will happea many years hence. <• The slightest divergence from these fixed and immutable laws would involve us m overwhelming and appalling rain, But He who has formed those laws can. also alter them ; aad moreover, He has who revealed to ,us m His word I that at a certain fixed time, known not even to the angels, but only to Himself, such divergence will take place ; and this earth of ours will be burned up and destroyed ; and, judging from whit we have seen m other parts of the Ufiiverse, we can assume that the final catastrophe will be caused by the impact of some great body m space, whose course will by the Almighty fiat be directed towards this earth. Perhaps even at this present moment, this body is on. its way, ar.d hastening on to involve, at the fixed moment, this world and all it contains, m fiery ruin and overwhelming annihilation. t - " Seeing then that all these thingsshall be dissolved, what manner of pej^fe sons ought wo to be ia all holy convert sation and godliness ; looking for and hasting unto the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. But the day of the Lord will come * as a thief m the night ; m which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the earth also and the works, that are therein shall be burned up. 4 ' (3 Pet. 111. 10-12).

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The Wonders of the Stars., Ellesmere Guardian, Volume XVIII, Issue 1869, 31 July 1897

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The Wonders of the Stars. Ellesmere Guardian, Volume XVIII, Issue 1869, 31 July 1897