Historical Reprints Science Story of the Heavens

Story of the Heavens

Story of the Heavens
Catalog # SKU3257
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 2.00 lbs
Author Name Sir Robert Stawell Ball
ISBN 10: 1610336070
ISBN 13: 9781610336079


The Story
of the Heavens

Large Print

Sir Robert Stawell Ball

"The Story of the Heavens" is the title of our book. We have indeed a wondrous story to narrate; and could we tell it adequately it would prove of boundless interest and of exquisite beauty. It leads to the contemplation of grand phenomena in nature and great achievements of human genius.

Let us enumerate a few of the questions which will be naturally asked by one who seeks to learn something of those glorious bodies which adorn our skies: What is the Sun how hot, how big, and how distant? Whence comes its heat? What is the Moon? What are its landscapes like? How does our satellite move? How is it related to the earth? Are the planets globes like that on which we live? How large are they, and how far off? What do we know of the satellites of Jupiter and of the rings of Saturn? How was Uranus discovered? What was the intellectual triumph which brought the planet Neptune to light? Then, as to the other bodies of our system, what are we to say of those mysterious objects, the comets? Can we discover the laws of their seemingly capricious movements? Do we know anything of their nature and of the marvellous tails with which they are often decorated? What can be told about the shooting-stars which so often dash into our atmosphere and perish in a streak of splendour? What is the nature of those constellations of bright stars which have been recognised from all antiquity, and of the host of smaller stars which our telescopes disclose? Can it be true that these countless orbs are really majestic suns, sunk to an appalling depth in the abyss of unfathomable space? What have we to tell of the different varieties of stars of coloured stars, of variable stars, of double stars, of multiple stars, of stars that seem to move, and of stars that seem at rest? What of those glorious objects, the great star clusters? What of the Milky Way? And, lastly, what can we learn of the marvellous nebulæ which our telescopes disclose, poised at an immeasurable distance? Such are a few of the questions which occur when we ponder on the mysteries of the heavens.

Large Print, 13 point font, New Edition



IF the moon were suddenly struck out of existence, we should be immediately apprised of the fact by a wail from every seaport in the kingdom. From London and from Liverpool we should hear the same story-the rise and fall of the tide had almost ceased. The ships in dock could not get out; the ships outside could not get in; and the maritime commerce of the world would be thrown into dire confusion.

The moon is the principal agent in causing the daily ebb and flow of the tide, and this is the most important work which our satellite has to do. The fleets of fishing boats around the coasts time their daily movements by the tide, and are largely indebted to the moon for bringing them in and out of harbour. Experienced sailors assure us that the tides are of the utmost service to navigation. The question as to how the moon causes the tides is postponed to a future chapter, in which we shall also sketch the marvellous part which the tides seem to have played in the early history of our earth. Who is there that has not watched, with admiration, the beautiful series of changes through which the moon passes every month?

We first see her as an exquisite crescent of pale light in the western sky after sunset. If the night is fine, the rest of the moon is visible inside the crescent, being faintly illumined by light reflected from our own earth. Night after night she moves further and further to the east, until she becomes full, and rises about the same time that the sun sets. From the time of the full the disc of light begins to diminish until the last quarter is reached. Then it is that the moon is seen high in the heavens in the morning. As the days pass by, the crescent shape is again assumed. The crescent wanes thinner and thinner as the satellite draws closer to the sun. Finally she becomes lost in the overpowering light of the sun, again to emerge as the new moon, and again to go through the same cycle of changes.

The brilliance of the moon arises solely from the light of the sun, which falls on the not self-luminous substance of the moon. Out of the vast flood of light which the sun pours forth with such prodigality into space the dark body of the moon intercepts a little, and of that little it reflects a small fraction to illuminate the earth. The moon sheds so much light, and seems so bright, that it is often difficult at night to remember that the moon has no light except what falls on it from the sun. Nevertheless, the actual surface of the brightest full moon is perhaps not much brighter than the streets of London on a clear sunshiny day. A very simple observation will suffice to show that the moon's light is only sunlight. Look some morning at the moon in daylight, and compare the moon with the clouds. The brightness of the moon and of the clouds are directly comparable, and then it can be readily comprehended how the sun which illuminates the clouds has also illumined the moon. An attempt has been made to form a comparative estimate of the brightness of the sun and the full moon. If 600,000 full moons were shining at once, their collective brilliancy would equal that of the sun.

The beautiful crescent moon has furnished a theme for many a poet. Indeed, if we may venture to say so, it would seem that some poets have forgotten that the moon is not to be seen every night. A poetical description of evening is almost certain to be associated with the appearance of the moon in some phase or other. We may cite one notable instance in which a poet, describing an historical event, has enshrined in exquisite verse a statement which cannot be correct. Every child who speaks our language has been taught that the burial of Sir John Moore took place:

"By the struggling moonbeams' misty light."

There is an appearance of detail in this statement which wears the garb of truth. We are not inclined to doubt that the night was misty, nor as to whether the moonbeams had to struggle into visibility; the question at issue is a much more fundamental one. We do not know who was the first to raise the point as to whether any moon shone on that memorable event at all or not; but the question having been raised, the Nautical Almanac immediately supplies an answer. From it we learn in language, whose truthfulness constitutes its only claim to be poetry, that the moon was new at one o'clock in the morning of the day of the battle of Corunna (16th January, 1809). The ballad evidently implies that the funeral took place on the night following the battle.

We are therefore assured that the moon can hardly have been a day old when the hero was consigned to his grave. But the moon in such a case is practically invisible, and yields no appreciable moonbeams at all, misty or otherwise. Indeed, if the funeral took place at the "dead of night," as the poet asserts, then the moon must have been far below the horizon at the time.

470 pages - 8½ x 11 softcover
ISBN-10: 1610336070
ISBN-13: 9781610336079

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