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the nebular hypothesis. - Herbert Spencer, Essays: Scientific, Political and Speculative, Vol. 1 
Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative. Library Edition, containing Seven Essays not before republished, and various other Additions (London: Williams and Norgate, 1891). Vol. 1
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the nebular hypothesis.
[First published in The Westminster Review for July, 1858. In explanation of sundry passages, it seems needful to state that this essay was written in defence of the Nebular Hypothesis at a time when it had fallen into disrepute. Hence there are some opinions spoken of as current which are no longer current.]
Inquiring into the pedigree of an idea is not a bad means of roughly estimating its value. To have come of respectable ancestry, is primâ facie evidence of worth in a belief as in a person; while to be descended from a discreditable stock is, in the one case as in the other, an unfavourable index. The analogy is not a mere fancy. Beliefs, together with those who hold them, are modified little by little in successive generations; and as the modifications which successive generations of the holders undergo do not destroy the original type, but only disguise and refine it, so the accompanying alterations of belief, however much they purify, leave behind the essence of the original belief.
Considered genealogically, the received theory respecting the creation of the Solar System is unmistakably of low origin. You may clearly trace it back to primitive mythologies. Its remotest ancestor is the doctrine that the celestial bodies are personages who originally lived on the Earth—a doctrine still held by some of the negroes Livingstone visited. Science having divested the sun and planets of their divine personalities, this old idea was succeeded by the idea which even Kepler entertained, that the planets are guided in their courses by presiding spirits: no longer themselves gods, they are still severally kept in their orbits by gods. And when gravitation came to dispense with these celestial steersmen, there was begotten a belief, less gross than its parent, but partaking of the same essential nature, that the planets were originally launched into their orbits by the Creator’s hand. Evidently, though much refined, the anthropomorphism of the current hypothesis is inherited from the aboriginal anthropomorphism, which described gods as a stronger order of men.
There is an antagonist hypothesis which does not propose to honour the Unknown Power manifested in the Universe, by such titles as “The Master-Builder,” or “The Great Artificer;” but which regards this Unknown Power as probably working after a method quite different from that of human mechanics. And the genealogy of this hypothesis is as high as that of the other is low. It is begotten by that ever-enlarging and ever-strengthening belief in the presence of Law, which accumulated experiences have gradually produced in the human mind. From generation to generation Science has been proving uniformities of relation among phenomena which were before thought either fortuitous or supernatural in their origin—has been showing an established order and a constant causation where ignorance had assumed irregularity and arbitrariness. Each further discovery of Law has increased the presumption that Law is everywhere conformed to. And hence, among other beliefs, has arisen the belief that the Solar System originated, not by manufacture but by evolution. Besides its abstract parentage in those grand general conceptions which Science has generated, this hypothesis has a concrete parentage of the highest character. Based as it is on the law of universal gravitation, it may claim for its remote progenitor the great thinker who established that law. It was first suggested by one who ranks high among philosophers. The man who collected evidence indicating that stars result from the aggregation of diffused matter, was the most diligent, careful, and original astronomical observer of modern times. And the world has not seen a more learned mathematician than the man who, setting out with this conception of diffused matter concentrating towards its centre of gravity, pointed out the way in which there would arise, in the course of its concentration, a balanced group of sun, planets, and satellites, like that of which the Earth is a member.
Thus, even were there but little direct evidence assignable for the Nebular Hypothesis, the probability of its truth would be strong. Its own high derivation and the low derivation of the antagonist hypothesis, would together form a weighty reason for accepting it—at any rate, provisionally. But the direct evidence assignable for the Nebular Hypothesis is by no means little. It is far greater in quantity, and more varied in kind, than is commonly supposed. Much has been said here and there on this or that class of evidences; but nowhere, so far as we know, have all the evidences been fully stated. We propose here to do something towards supplying the deficiency: believing that, joined with the a priori reasons given above, the array of a posteriori reasons will leave little doubt in the mind of any candid inquirer.
And first, let us address ourselves to those recent discoveries in stellar astronomy which have been supposed to conflict with this celebrated speculation.
When Sir William Herschel, directing his great reflector to various nebulous spots, found them resolvable into clusters of stars, he inferred, and for a time maintained, that all nebulous spots are clusters of stars exceedingly remote from us. But after years of conscientious investigation, he concluded that “there were nebulosities which are not of a starry nature;” and on this conclusion was based his hypothesis of a diffused luminous fluid which, by its eventual aggregation, produced stars. A telescopic power much exceeding that used by Herschel, has enabled Lord Rosse to resolve some of the nebulæ previously unresolved; and, returning to the conclusion which Herschel first formed on similar grounds but afterwards rejected, many astronomers have assumed that, under sufficiently high powers, every nebula would be decomposed into stars—that the irresolvability is due solely to distance. The hypothesis now commonly entertained is, that all nebulæ are galaxies more or less like in nature to that immediately surrounding us; but that they are so inconceivably remote as to look, through ordinary telescopes, like small faint spots. And not a few have drawn the corollary, that by the discoveries of Lord Rosse the Nebular Hypothesis has been disproved.
Now, even supposing that these inferences respecting the distances and natures of the nebulæ are valid, they leave the Nebular Hypothesis substantially as it was. Admitting that each of these faint spots is a sidereal system, so far removed that its countless stars give less light than one small star of our own sidereal system; the admission is in no way inconsistent with the belief that stars, and their attendant planets, have been formed by the aggregation of nebulous matter. Though, doubtless, if the existence of nebulous matter now in course of concentration be disproved, one of the evidences of the Nebular Hypothesis is destroyed, yet the remaining evidences remain. It is a tenable position that though nebular condensation is now nowhere to be seen in progress, yet it was once going on universally. And, indeed, it might be argued that the still-continued existence of diffused nebulous matter is scarcely to be expected; seeing that the causes which have resulted in the aggregation of one mass, must have been acting on all masses, and that hence the existence of masses not aggregated would be a fact calling for explanation. Thus, granting the immediate conclusions suggested by these recent disclosures of the six-feet reflector, the corollary which many have drawn is inadmissible.
But these conclusions may be successfully contested. Receiving them though we have been, for years past, as established truths, a critical examination of the facts has convinced us that they are quite unwarrantable. They involve so many manifest incongruities, that we have been astonished to find men of science entertaining them, even as probable. Let us consider these incongruities.
In the first place, mark what is inferable from the distribution of nebulæ.
“The spaces which precede or which follow simple nebulæ.” says Arago, “and à fortiori, groups of nebulæ, contain generally few stars. Herschel found this rule to be invariable. Thus every time that during a short interval no star approached in virtue of the diurnal motion, to place itself in the field of his motionless telescope, he was accustomed to say to the secretary who assisted him,—‘Prepare to write; nebulæ are about to arrive.’”
How does this fact consist with the hypothesis that nebulæ are remote galaxies? If there were but one nebula, it would be a curious coincidence were this one nebula so placed in the distant regions of space, as to agree in direction with a starless spot in our own sidereal system. If there were but two nebulæ, and both were so placed, the coincidence would be excessively strange. What, then, shall we say on finding that there are thousands of nebulæ so placed? Shall we believe that in thousands of cases these far-removed galaxies happen to agree in their visible positions with the thin places in our own galaxy? Such a belief is impossible.
Still more manifest does the impossibility of it become when we consider the general distribution of nebulæ. Besides again showing itself in the fact that “the poorest regions in stars are near the richest in nebulæ,” the law above specified applies to the heavens as a whole. In that zone of celestial space where stars are excessively abundant, nebulæ are rare; while in the two opposite celestial spaces that are furthest removed from this zone, nebulæ are abundant. Scarcely any nebulæ lie near the galactic circle (or plane of the Milky Way); and the great mass of them lie round the galactic poles. Can this also be mere coincidence? When to the fact that the general mass of nebulæ are antithetical in position to the general mass of stars, we add the fact that local regions of nebulæ are regions where stars are scarce, and the further fact that single nebulæ are habitually found in comparatively starless spots; does not the proof of a physical connexion become overwhelming? Should it not require an infinity of evidence to show that nebulæ are not parts of our sidereal system? Let us see whether any such infinity of evidence is assignable. Let us see whether there is even a single alleged proof which will bear examination.
“As seen through colossal telescopes,” says Humboldt, “the contemplation of these nebulous masses leads us into regions from whence a ray of light, according to an assumption not wholly improbable, requires millions of years to reach our earth—to distances for whose measurement the dimensions (the distance of Sirius, or the calculated distances of the binary stars in Cygnus and the Centaur) of our nearest stratum of fixed stars scarcely suffice.”
In this confused sentence there is implied a belief, that the distances of the nebulæ from our galaxy of stars as much transcend the distances of our stars from one another, as these interstellar distances transcend the dimensions of our planetary system. Just as the diameter of the Earth’s orbit, is a mere point when compared with the distance of our Sun from Sirius; so is the distance of our Sun from Sirius, a mere point when compared with the distance of our galaxy from those far-removed galaxies constituting nebulæ. Observe the consequences of this assumption.
If one of these supposed galaxies is so remote that its distance dwarfs our interstellar spaces into points, and therefore makes the dimensions of our whole sidereal system relatively insignificant; does it not inevitably follow that the telescopic power required to resolve this remote galaxy into stars, must be incomparably greater than the telescopic power required to resolve the whole of our own galaxy into stars? Is it not certain that an instrument which can just exhibit with clearness the most distant stars of our own cluster, must be utterly unable to separate one of these remote clusters into stars? What, then, are we to think when we find that the same instrument which decomposes hosts of nebulæ into stars, fails to resolve completely our own Milky Way? Take a homely comparison. Suppose a man who was surrounded by a swarm of bees, extending, as they sometimes do, so high in the air as to render some of the individual bees almost invisible, were to declare that a certain spot on the horizon was a swarm of bees; and that he knew it because he could see the bees as separate specks. Incredible as the assertion would be, it would not exceed in incredibility this which we are criticising. Reduce the dimensions to figures, and the absurdity becomes still more palpable. In round numbers, the distance of Sirius from the Earth is half a million times the distance of the Earth from the Sun; and, according to the hypothesis, the distance of a nebula is something like half a million times the distance of Sirius. Now, our own “starry island, or nebula,” as Humboldt calls it, “forms a lens-shaped, flattened, and everywhere detached stratum, whose major axis is estimated at seven or eight hundred, and its minor axis at a hundred and fifty times the distance of Sirius from the Earth.”∗ And since it is concluded that the Solar System is near the centre of this aggregation, it follows that our distance from the remotest parts of it is some four hundred distances of Sirius. But the stars forming these remotest parts are not individually visible, even through telescopes of the highest power. How, then, can such telescopes make individually visible the stars of a nebula which is half a million times the distance of Sirius? The implication is, that a star rendered invisible by distance becomes visible if taken twelve hundred times further off! Shall we accept this implication? or shall we not rather conclude that the nebulæ are not remote galaxies? Shall we not infer that, be their nature what it may, they must be at least as near to us as the extremities of our own sidereal system?
Throughout the above argument, it is tacitly assumed that differences of apparent magnitude among the stars, result mainly from differences of distance. On this assumption the current doctrines respecting the nebulæ are founded; and this assumption is, for the nonce, admitted in each of the foregoing criticisms. From the time, however, when it was first made by Sir W. Herschel, this assumption has been purely gratuitous; and it now proves to be inadmissible. But, awkwardly enough, its truth and its untruth are alike fatal to the conclusions of those who argue after the manner of Humboldt. Note the alternatives.
On the one hand, what follows from the untruth of the assumption? If apparent largeness of stars is not due to comparative nearness, and their successively smaller sizes to their greater and greater degrees of remoteness, what becomes of the inferences respecting the dimensions of our sidereal system and the distances of nebulæ? If, as has lately been shown, the almost invisible star 61 Cygni has a greater parallax than a Cygni, though, according to an estimate based on Sir W. Herschel’s assumption, it should be about twelve times more distant—if, as it turns out, there exist telescopic stars which are nearer to us than Sirius; of what worth is the conclusion that the nebulæ are very remote, because their component luminous masses are made visible only by high telescopic powers? Clearly, if the most brilliant star in the heavens and a star that cannot be seen by the naked eye, prove to be equidistant, relative distances cannot be in the least inferred from relative visibilities. And if so, nebulæ may be comparatively near, though the starlets of which they are made up appear extremely minute.
On the other hand, what follows if the truth of the assumption be granted? The arguments used to justify this assumption in the case of the stars, equally justify it in the case of the nebulæ. It cannot be contended that, on the average, the apparent sizes of the stars indicate their distances, without its being admitted that, on the average, the apparent sizes of the nebulæ indicate their distances—that, generally speaking, the larger are the nearer and the smaller are the more distant. Mark, now, the necessary inference respecting their resolvability. The largest or nearest nebulæ will be most easily resolved into stars; the successively smaller will be successively more difficult of resolution; and the irresolvable ones will be the smallest ones. This, however, is exactly the reverse of the fact. The largest nebulæ are either wholly irresolvable, or but partially resolvable under the highest telescopic powers; while large numbers of quite small nebulæ are easily resolved by far less powerful telescopes. An instrument through which the great nebula in Andromeda, two and a half degrees long and one degree broad, appears merely as a diffused light, decomposes a nebula of fifteen minutes diameter into twenty thousand starry points. At the same time that the individual stars of a nebula eight minutes in diameter are so clearly seen as to allow of their number being estimated, a nebula covering an area five hundred times as great shows no stars at all! What possible explanation of this can be given on the current hypothesis?
Yet a further difficulty remains—one which is, perhaps, still more obviously fatal than the foregoing. This difficulty is presented by the phenomena of the Magellanic clouds. Describing the larger of these, Sir John Herschel says:—
“The Nubecula Major, like the Minor, consists partly of large tracts and ill-defined patches of irresolvable nebula, and of nebulosity in every stage of resolution, up to perfectly resolved stars like the Milky Way, as also of regular and irregular nebulæ properly so called, of globular clusters in every stage of resolvability, and of clustering groups sufficiently insulated and condensed to come under the designation of ‘clusters of stars.’”—Cape Observations, p. 146.
In his Outlines of Astronomy, Sir John Herschel, after repeating this description in other words, goes on to remark that—
“This combination of characters, rightly considered, is in a high degree instructive, affording an insight into the probable comparative distance of stars and nebulæ, and the real brightness of individual stars as compared with one another. Taking the apparent semidiameter of the nubecula major at three degrees, and regarding its solid form as, roughly speaking, spherical, its nearest and most remote parts differ in their distance from us by a little more than a tenth part of our distance from its center. The brightness of objects situated in its nearer portions, therefore, cannot be much exaggerated, nor that of its remoter much enfeebled, by their difference of distance; yet within this globular space, we have collected upwards of six hundred stars of the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth magnitudes, nearly three hundred nebulæ, and globular and other clusters, of all degrees of resolvability, and smaller scattered stars innumerable of every inferior magnitude, from the tenth to such as by their multitude and minuteness constitute irresolvable nebulosity, extending over tracts of many square degrees. Were there but one such object, it might be maintained without utter improbability that its apparent sphericity is only an effect of foreshortening, and that in reality a much greater proportional difference of distance between its nearer and more remote parts exists. But such an adjustment, improbable enough in one case, must be rejected as too much so for fair argument in two. It must, therefore, be taken as a demonstrated fact, that stars of the seventh or eighth magnitude and irresolvable nebula may co-exist within limits of distance not differing in proportion more than as nine to ten.”—Outlines of Astronomy (10th Ed.), pp. 656–57.
This supplies yet another reductio ad absurdum of the doctrine we are combating. It gives us the choice of two incredibilities. If we are to believe that one of these included nebulæ is so remote that its hundred thousand stars look like a milky spot, invisible to the naked eye; we must also believe that there are single stars so enormous that though removed to this same distance they remain visible. If we accept the other alternative, and say that many nebulæ are no further off than our own stars of the eighth magnitude; then it is requisite to say that at a distance not greater than that at which a single star is still faintly visible to the naked eye, there may exist a group of a hundred thousand stars which is invisible to the naked eye. Neither of these suppositions can be entertained. What, then, is the conclusion that remains? This only:—that the nebulæ are not further from us than parts of our own sidereal system, of which they must be considered members; and that when they are resolvable into discrete masses, these masses cannot be considered as stars in anything like the ordinary sense of that word.∗
And now, having seen the untenability of this idea, rashly espoused by sundry astronomers, that the nebulæ are extremely remote galaxies; let us consider whether the various appearances they present are not reconcilable with the Nebular Hypothesis.
Given a rare and widely-diffused mass of nebulous matter, having a diameter, say, of one hundred times that of the Solar System,† what are the successive changes that may be expected to take place in it? Mutual gravitation will approximate its atoms or its molecules; but their approximation will be opposed by that atomic motion the resultant of which we recognize as repulsion, and the overcoming of which implies the evolution of heat. As fast as this heat partially escapes by radiation, further approximation will take place, attended by further evolution of heat, and so on continuously: the processes not occurring separately as here described, but simultaneously, uninterruptedly, and with increasing activity. When the nebulous mass has reached a particular stage of condensation—when its internally-situated atoms have approached to within certain distances, have generated a certain amount of heat, and are subject to a certain mutual pressure, combinations may be anticipated. Whether the molecules produced be of kinds such as we know, which is possible, or whether they be of kinds simpler than any we know, which is more probable, matters not to the argument. It suffices that molecular unions, either between atoms of the same kind or between atoms of different kinds, will finally take place. When they do take place, they will be accompanied by a sudden and great disengagement of heat; and until this excess of heat has escaped, the newly-formed molecules will remain uniformly diffused, or, as it were, dissolved in the pre-existing nebulous medium.
But now what may be expected by and by to happen? When radiation has adequately lowered the temperature, these molecules will precipitate; and, having precipitated, they will not remain uniformly diffused, but will aggregate into flocculi; just as water, precipitated from air, collects into clouds. Concluding, thus, that a nebulous mass will, in course of time, resolve itself into flocculi of precipitated denser matter, floating in the rarer medium from which they were precipitated, let us inquire what are the mechanical results to be inferred. Of clustered bodies in empty space, each will move along a line which is the resultant of the tractive forces exercised by all the rest, modified from moment to moment by the acquired motion; and the aggregation of such clustered bodies, if it eventually results at all, can result only from collision, dissipation, and the formation of a resisting medium. But with clustered bodies already immersed in a resisting medium, and especially if such bodies are of small densities, such as those we are considering, the process of concentration will begin forthwith: two factors conspiring to produce it. The flocculi described, irregular in their shapes and presenting, as they must in nearly all cases, unsymmetrical faces to their lines of motion, will be deflected from those courses which mutual gravitation, if uninterfered with, would produce among them; and this will militate against that balancing of movements which permanence of the cluster pre-supposes. If it be said, as it may truly be said, that this is too trifling a cause of derangement to produce much effect, then there comes the more important cause with which it co-operates. The medium from which the flocculi have been precipitated, and through which they are moving, must, by gravitation, be rendered denser in its central parts than in its peripheral parts. Hence the flocculi, none of them moving in straight lines to the common centre of gravity, but having courses made to diverge to one or other side of it (in small degrees by the cause just assigned, and in much greater degrees by the cause just assigned, and in much greater degrees by the tractive forces of other flocculi) will, in moving towards the central region, meet with greater resistances on their inner sides than on their outer sides; and will be thus made to diverge outwardly from their courses more than they would otherwise do. Hence a tendency which, apart from other tendencies, will cause them severally to go on one or other side of the centre of gravity, and, approaching it, to get motions more and more tangential. Observe, however, that their respective motions will be deflected, not towards one side of the common centre of gravity, but towards various sides. How then can there result a movement common to them all? Very simply. Each flocculus, in describing its course, must give motion to the medium through which it is moving. But the probabilities are infinity to one against all the respective motions thus impressed on this medium, exactly balancing one another. And if they do not balance one another the result must be rotation of the whole mass of the medium in one direction. But preponderating momentum in one direction, having caused rotation of the medium in that direction, the rotating medium must in its turn gradually arrest such flocculi as are moving in opposition, and impress its own motion upon them; and thus there will ultimately be formed a rotating medium with suspended flocculi partaking of its motion, while they move in converging spirals towards the common centre of gravity.∗
Before comparing these conclusions with facts, let us pursue the reasoning a little further, and observe certain subordinate actions. The respective flocculi must be drawn not towards their common centre of gravity only, but also towards neighbouring flocculi. Hence the whole assemblage of flocculi will break up into groups: each group concentrating towards its local centre of gravity, and in so doing acquiring a vortical movement like that subsequently acquired by the whole nebula. According to circumstances, and chiefly according to the size of the original nebulous mass, this process of local aggregation will produce various results. If the whole nebula is but small, the local groups of flocculi may be drawn into the common centre of gravity before their constituent masses have coalesced with one another. In a larger nebula, these local aggregations may have concentrated into rotating spheroids of vapour, while yet they have made but little approach towards the general focus of the system. In a still larger nebula, where the local aggregations are both greater and more remote from the common centre of gravity, they may have condensed into masses of molten matter before the general distribution of them has greatly altered. In short, as the conditions in each case determine, the discrete masses produced may vary indefinitely in number, in size, in density, in motion, in distribution.
And now let us return to the visible characters of nebulæ, as observed through modern telescopes. Take first the description of those nebulæ which, by the hypothesis, must be in an early stage of evolution.
Among the “irregular nebulæ,“ ssys Sir John Herschel, “may be comprehended all which, to a want of complete and in most instances even of partial resolvability by the power of the 20-feet reflector, unite such a deviation from the circular or elliptic form, or such a want of symmetry (with that form) as preclude their being placed in class 1, or that of Regular Nebulæ. This second class comprises many of the most remarkable and interesting objects in the heavens, as well as the most extensive in respect of the area they occupy.“
And, referring to this same order of objects, M. Arago says:—“The forms of very large diffuse nebulæ do not appear to admit of definition; they have no regular outline.”
This coexistence of largeness, irregularity, and indefiniteness of outline, with irresolvability, is extremely significant. The fact that the largest nebulæ are either irresolvable or very difficult to resolve, might have been inferred a priori; seeing that irresolvability, implying that the aggregation of precipitated matter has gone on to but a small extent, will be found in nebulæ of wide diffusion. Again, the irregularity of these large, irresolvable nebulæ, might also have been expected; seeing that their outlines, compared by Arago with “the fantastic figures which characterize clouds carried away and tossed about by violent and often contrary winds,” are similarly characteristic of a mass not yet gathered together by the mutual attraction of its parts. And once more, the fact that these large, irregular, irresolvable nebulæ have indefinite outlines—outlines that fade off insensibly into surrounding darkness—is one of like meaning.
Speaking generally (and of course differences of distance negative anything beyond average statements), the spiral nebulæ are smaller than the irregular nebulæ, and more resolvable; at the same time that they are not so small as the regular nebulæ, and not so resolvable. This is as, according to the hypothesis, it should be. The degree of condensation causing spiral movement, is a degree of condensation also implying masses of flocculi that are larger, and therefore more visible, than those existing in an earlier stage. Moreover, the forms of these spiral nebulæ are quite in harmony with the explanation given. The curves of luminous matter which they exhibit, are not such as would be described by discrete masses starting from a state of rest, and moving through a resisting medium to a common centre of gravity; but they are such as would be described by masses having their movements modified by the rotation of the medium.
In the centre of a spiral nebula is seen a mass both more luminous and more resolvable than the rest. Assume that, in process of time, all the spiral streaks of luminous matter which converge to this centre are drawn into it, as they must be; assume further, that the flocculi, or other discrete portions constituting these luminous streaks, aggregate into larger masses at the same time that they approach the central group, and that the masses forming this central group also aggregate into larger masses; and there will finally result a cluster of such larger masses, which will be resolvable with comparative ease. And, as the coalescence and concentration go on, the constituent masses will gradually become fewer, larger, brighter, and more densely collected around the common centre of gravity. See now how completely this inference agrees with observation. “The circular form is that which most commonly characterises resolvable nebulæ,” writes Arago. Resolvable nebulæ, says Sir John Herschel, “are almost universally round or oval.” Moreover, the centre of each group habitually displays a closer clustering of the constituent masses than the outer parts; and it is shown that, under the law of gravitation, which we now know extends to the stars, this distribution is not one of equilibrium, but implies progressing concentration. While, just as we inferred that, according to circumstances, the extent to which aggregation has been carried must vary; so we find that, in fact, there are regular nebulæ of all degrees of resolvability, from those consisting of innumerable minute masses, to those in which their numbers are smaller and the sizes greater, and to those in which there are a few large bodies worthy to be called stars.
On the one hand, then, we see that the notion, of late years uncritically received, that the nebulæ are extremely remote galaxies of stars like those which make up our own Milky Way, is totally irreconcileable with the facts—involves us in sundry absurdities. On the other hand, we see that the hypothesis of nebular condensation harmonizes with the most recent results of stellar astronomy: nay more—that it supplies us with an explanation of various appearances which in its absence would be incomprehensible.
Descending now to the Solar System, let us consider first a class of phenomena in some sort transitional—those offered by comets. In them, or at least in those most numerous of them which lie far out of the plane of the Solar System, and are not to be counted among its members, we have, still existing, a kind of matter like that out of which, according to the Nebular Hypothesis, the Solar System was evolved. Hence, for the explanation of them, we must go back to the time when the substances forming the sun and planets were yet unconcentrated.
When diffused matter, precipitated from a rarer medium, is aggregating, there are certain to be here and there produced small flocculi, which long remain detached; as do, for instance, minute shreds of cloud in a summer sky. In a concentrating nebula these will, in the majority of cases, eventually coalesce with the larger flocculi near to them. But it is tolerably evident that some of those formed at the outermost parts of the nebula, will not coalesce with the larger internal masses, but will slowly follow without overtaking them. The relatively greater resistance of the medium necessitates this. As a single feather falling to the ground will be rapidly left behind by a pillow-full of feathers; so, in their progress to the common centre of gravity, will the outermost shreds of vapour be left behind by the great masses of vapour internally situated. But we are not dependent merely on reasoning for this belief. Observation shows us that the less concentrated external parts of nebulæ, are left behind by the more concentrated internal parts. Examined through high powers, all nebulæ, even when they have assumed regular forms, are seen to be surrounded by luminous streaks, of which the directions show that they are being drawn into the general mass. Still higher powers bring into view still smaller, fainter, and more widely-dispersed streaks. And it cannot be doubted that the minute fragments which no telescopic aid makes visible, are yet more numerous and widely dispersed. Thus far, then, inference and observation are at one.
Granting that the great majority of these outlying portions of nebulous matter will be drawn into the central mass long before it reaches a definite form, the presumption is that some of the very small, far-removed portions will not be so; but that before they arrive near it, the central mass will have contracted into a comparatively moderate bulk. What now will be the characters of these late-arriving portions?
In the first place, they will have either extremely eccentric orbits or non-elliptic paths. Left behind at a time when they were moving towards the centre of gravity in slightly-deflected lines, and therefore having but very small angular velocities, they will approach the central mass in greatly elongated curves; and rushing round it, will go off again into space. That is, they will behave just as we see the majority of comets do; the orbits of which are either so eccentric as to be indistinguishable from parabolas, or else are not orbits at all, but are paths which are distinctly either parabolic or hyperbolic.
In the second place, they will come from all parts of the heavens. Our supposition implies that they were left behind at a time when the nebulous mass was of irregular shape, and had not acquired a definite rotation; and as the separation of them would not be from any one surface of the nebulous mass more than another, the conclusion must be that they will come to the central body from various directions in space. This, too, is exactly what happens. Unlike planets, whose orbits approximate to one plane, comets have orbits that show no relation to one another; but cut the plane of the ecliptic at all angles, and have axes inclined to it at all angles.
In the third place, these remotest flocculi of nebulous matter will, at the outset, be deflected from their direct courses to the common centre of gravity, not all on one side, but each on such side as its form, or its original proper motion, determines. And being left behind before the rotation of the nebula is set up, they will severally retain their different individual motions. Hence, following the concentrated mass, they will eventually go round it on all sides; and as often from right to left as from left to right. Here again the inference perfectly corresponds with the facts. While all the planets go round the sun from west to east, comets as often go round the sun from east to west as from west to east. Of 262 comets recorded since 1680, 130 are direct, and 132 are retrograde. This equality is what the law of probabilities would indicate.
Then, in the fourth place, the physical constitution of comets accords with the hypothesis.∗ The ability of nebulous matter to concentrate into a concrete form, depends on its mass. To bring its ultimate atoms into that proximity requisite for chemical union—requisite, that is, for the production of denser matter—their repulsion must be overcome. The only force antagonistic to their repulsion, is their mutual gravitation. That their mutual gravitation may generate a pressure and temperature of sufficient intensity, there must be an enormous accumulation of them; and even then the approximation can slowly go on only as fast as the evolved heat escapes. But where the quantity of atoms is small, and therefore the force of mutual gravitation small, there will be nothing to coerce the atoms into union. Whence we infer that these detached fragments of nebulous matter will continue in their original state. Non-periodic comets seem to do so.
We have already seen that this view of the origin of comets harmonizes with the characters of their orbits; but the evidence hence derived is much stronger than was indicated. The great majority of cometary orbits are classed as parabolic; and it is ordinarily inferred that they are visitors from remote space, and will never return. But are they rightly classed as parabolic? Observations on a comet moving in an extremely eccentric ellipse, which are possible only when it is comparatively near perihelion, must fail to distinguish its orbit from a parabola. Evidently, then, it is not safe to class it as a parabola because of inability to detect the elements of an ellipse. But if extreme eccentricity of an orbit necessitates such inability, it seems quite possible that comets have no other orbits than elliptic ones. Though five or six are said to be hyperbolic, yet, as I learn from one who has paid special attention to comets, “no such orbit has, I believe, been computed for a well-observed comet.” Hence the probability that all the orbits are ellipses is overwhelming. Ellipses and hyperbolas have countless varieties of forms, but there is only one form of parabola; or, to speak literally, all parabolas are similar, while there are infinitely numerous dissimilar ellipses and dissimilar hyperbolas. Consequently, anything coming to the Sun from a great distance must have one exact amount of proper motion to produce a parabola: all other amounts would give hyperbolas or ellipses. And if there are no hyperbolic orbits, then it is infinity to one that all the orbits are elliptical. This is just what they would be if comets had the genesis above supposed.
And now, leaving these erratic bodies, let us turn to the more familiar and important members of the Solar System. It was the remarkable harmony among their movements which first made Laplace conceive that the Sun, planets, and satellites had resulted from a common genetic process. As Sir William Herschel, by his observations on the nebulæ, was led to the conclusion that stars resulted from the aggregation of diffused matter; so Laplace, by his observations on the structure of the Solar System, was led to the conclusion that only by the rotation of aggregating matter were its peculiarities to be explained. In his Exposition du Système du Monde, he enumerates as the leading evidences:—1. The movements of the planets in the same direction and in orbits approaching to the same plane; 2. The movements of the satellites in the same direction as those of the planets; 3. The movements of rotation of these various bodies and of the sun in the same direction as the orbital motions, and mostly in planes little different; 4. The small eccentricities of the orbits of the planets and satellites, as contrasted with the great eccentricities of the cometary orbits. And the probability that these harmonious movements had a common cause, he calculates as two hundred thousand billions to one.
This immense preponderance of probability does not point to a common cause under the form ordinarily conceived—an Invisible Power working after the method of “a Great Artificer;” but to an Invisible Power working after the method of evolution. For though the supporters of the common hypothesis may argue that it was necessary for the sake of stability that the planets should go round the Sun in the same direction and nearly in one plane, they cannot thus account for the direction of the axial motions.∗ The mechanical equilibrium would not have been interfered with, had the Sun been without any rotatory movement; or had he revolved on his axis in a direction opposite to that in which the planets go round him; or in a direction at right angles to the average plane of their orbits. With equal safety the motion of the Moon round the Earth might have been the reverse of the Earth’s motion round its axis; or the motions of Jupiter’s satellites might similarly have been at variance with his axial motion; or those of Saturn’s satellites with his. As, however, none of these alternatives have been followed, the uniformity must be considered, in this case as in all others, evidence of subordination to some general law—implies what we call natural causation, as distinguished from arbitrary arrangement.
Hence the hypothesis of evolution would be the only probable one, even in the absence of any clue to the particular mode of evolution. But when we have, propounded by a mathematician of the highest authority, a theory of this evolution based on established mechanical principles, which accounts for these various peculiarities, as well as for many minor ones, the conclusion that the Solar System was evolved becomes almost irresistible.
The general nature of Laplace’s theory scarcely needs stating. Books of popular astronomy have familiarized most readers with his conceptions;—namely, that the matter now condensed into the Solar System, once formed a vast rotating spheroid of extreme rarity extending beyond the orbit of the outermost planet; that as this spheroid contracted, its rate of rotation necessarily increased; that by augmenting centrifugal force its equatorial zone was from time to time prevented from following any further the concentrating mass, and so remained behind as a revolving ring; that each of the revolving rings thus periodically detached, eventually became ruptured at its weakest point, and, contracting on itself, gradually aggregated into a rotating mass; that this, like the parent mass, increased in rapidity of rotation as it decreased in size, and, where the centrifugal force was sufficient, similarly left behind rings, which finally collapsed into rotating spheroids; and that thus, out of these primary and secondary rings, there arose planets and their satellites, while from the central mass there resulted the Sun. Moreover, it is tolerably well known that this a priori reasoning harmonizes with the results of experiment. Dr. Plateau has shown that when a mass of fluid is, as far may be, protected from the action of external forces, it will, if made to rotate with adequate velocity, form detached rings; and that these rings will break up into spheroids which turn on their axes in the same direction with the central mass. Thus, given the original nebula, which, acquiring a vortical motion in the way indicated, has at length concentrated into a vast spheroid of aeriform matter moving round its axis—given this, and mechanical principles explain the rest. The genesis of a Solar System displaying movements like those observed, may be predicted; and the reasoning on which the prediction is based is countenanced by experiment.∗
But now let us inquire whether, besides these most conspicuous structural and dynamic peculiarities of the Solar System, sundry minor ones are not similarly explicable.
Take first the relation between the planes of the planetary orbits and the plane of the Sun’s equator. If, when the nebulous spheroid extended beyond the orbit of Neptune, all parts of it had been revolving exactly in the same plane, or rather in parallel planes—if all its parts had had one axis; then the planes of the successive rings would have been coincident with each other and with that of the Sun’s rotation. But it needs only to go back to the earlier stages of concentration, to see that there could exist no such complete uniformity of motion. The flocculi, already described as precipitated from an irregular and widely-diffused nebula, and as starting from all points to their common centre of gravity, must move not in one plane but in innumerable planes, cutting each other at all angles. The gradual establishment of a vortical motion such as we at present see indicated in the spiral nebulæ, is the gradual approach towards motion in one plane. But this plane can but slowly become decided. Flocculi not moving in this plane, but entering into the aggregation at various inclinations, will tend to perform their revolutions round its centre in their own planes; and only in course of time will their motions be partly destroyed by conflicting ones, and partly resolved into the general motion. Especially will the outermost portions of the rotating mass retain for a long time their more or less independent directions. Hence the probabilities are, that the planes of the rings first detached will differ considerably from the average plane of the mass; while the planes of those detached latest will differ from it less.
Here, again, inference to a considerable extent agrees with observation. Though the progression is irregular, yet, on the average, the inclinations decrease on approaching the Sun; and this is all we can expect. For as the portions of the nebulous spheroid must have arrived with miscellaneous inclinations, its strata must have had planes of rotation diverging from the average plane in degrees not always proportionate to their distances from the centre.
Consider next the movements of the planets on their axes. Laplace alleged as one among other evidences of a common genetic cause, that the planets rotate in a direction the same as that in which they go round the Sun, and on axes approximately perpendicular to their orbits. Since he wrote, an exception to this general rule has been discovered in the case of Uranus, and another still more recently in the case of Neptune—judging, at least, from the motions of their respective satellites. This anomaly has been thought to throw considerable doubt on his speculation; and at first sight it does so. But a little reflection shows that the anomaly is not inexplicable, and that Laplace simply went too far in putting down as a certain result of nebular genesis, what is, in some instances, only a probable result. The cause he pointed out as determining the direction of rotation, is the greater absolute velocity of the outer part of the detached ring. But there are conditions under which this difference of velocity may be too insignificant, even if it exists. If a mass of nebulous matter approaching spirally to the central spheroid, and eventually joining it tangentially, is made up of parts having the same absolute velocities; then, after joining the equatorial periphery of the spheroid and being made to rotate with it, the angular velocity of its outer parts will be smaller than the angular velocity of its inner parts. Hence, if, when the angular velocities of the outer and inner parts of a detached ring are the same, there results a tendency to rotation in the same direction with the orbital motion, it may be inferred that when the outer parts of the ring have a smaller angular velocity than the inner parts, a tendency to retrograde rotation will be the consequence.
Again, the sectional form of the ring is a circumstance of moment; and this form must have differed more or less in every case. To make this clear, some illustration will be necessary. Suppose we take an orange, and, assuming the marks of the stalk and the calyx to represent the poles, cut off round the line of the equator a strip of peel. This strip of peel, if placed on the table with its ends meeting, will make a ring shaped like the hoop of a barrel—a ring of which the thickness in the line of its diameter is very small, but of which the width in a direction perpendicular to its diameter is considerable. Suppose, now, that in place of an orange, which is a spheroid of very slight oblateness, we take a spheroid of very great oblateness, shaped somewhat like a lens of small convexity. If from the edge or equator of this lens-shaped spheroid, a ring of moderate size were cut off, it would be unlike the previous ring in this respect, that its greatest thickness would be in the line of its diameter, and not in a line at right angles to its diameter: it would be a ring shaped somewhat like a quoit, only far more slender. That is to say, according to the oblateness of a rotating spheroid, the detached ring may be either a hoop-shaped ring or a quoit-shaped ring.
One further implication must be noted. In a much-flattened or lens-shaped spheroid, the form of the ring will vary with its bulk. A very slender ring, taking off just the equatorial surface, will be hoop-shaped; while a tolerably massive ring, trenching appreciably on the diameter of the spheroid, will be quoit-shaped. Thus, then, according to the oblateness of the spheroid and the bulkiness of the detached ring, will the greatest thickness of that ring be in the direction of its plane, or in a direction perpendicular to its plane. But this circumstance must greatly affect the rotation of the resulting planet. In a decidedly hoop-shaped nebulous ring, the differences of velocity between the inner and outer surfaces will be small; and such a ring, aggregating into a mass of which the greatest diameter is at right angles to the plane of the orbit, will almost certainly give to this mass a predominant tendency to rotate in a direction at right angles to the plane of the orbit. Where the ring is but little hoop-shaped, and the difference between the inner and outer velocities greater, as it must be, the opposing tendencies—one to produce rotation in the plane of the orbit, and the other, rotation perpendicular to it—will both be influential; and an intermediate plane of rotation will be taken up. While, if the nebulous ring is decidedly quoit-shaped, and therefore aggregates into a mass whose greatest dimension lies in the plane of the orbit, both tendencies will conspire to produce rotation in that plane.
On referring to the facts, we find them, as far as can be judged, in harmony with this view. Considering the enormous circumference of Uranus’s orbit, and his comparatively small mass, we may conclude that the ring from which he resulted was a comparatively slender, and therefore a hoop-shaped one: especially as the nebulous mass must have been at that time less oblate than afterwards. Hence, a plane of rotation nearly perpendicular to his orbit, and a direction of rotation having no reference to his orbital movement. Saturn has a mass seven times as great, and an orbit of less than half the diameter; whence it follows that his genetic ring, having less than half the circumference, and less than half the vertical thickness (the spheroid being then certainly as oblate, and indeed more oblate), must have had a much greater width—must have been less hoop-shaped, and more approaching to the quoit-shaped: notwithstanding difference of density, it must have been at least two or three times as broad in the line of its plane. Consequently, Saturn has a rotatory movement in the same direction as the movement of translation, and in a plane differing from it by thirty degrees only. In the case of Jupiter, again, whose mass is three and a half times that of Saturn, and whose orbit is little more than half the size, the genetic ring must, for the like reasons, have been still broader—decidedly quoit-shaped, we may say; and there hence resulted a planet whose plane of rotation differs from that of his orbit by scarcely more than three degrees. Once more, considering the comparative insignificance of Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury, it follows that, the diminishing circumferences of the rings not sufficing to account for the smallness of the resulting masses, the rings must have been slender ones—must have again approximated to the hoop-shaped; and thus it happens that the planes of rotation again diverge more or less widely from those of the orbits. Taking into account the increasing oblateness of the original spheroid in the successive stages of its concentration, and the different proportions of the detached rings, it may fairly be held that the respective rotatory motions are not at variance with the hypothesis but contrariwise tend to confirm it.
Not only the directions, but also the velocities of rotation seem thus explicable. It might naturally be supposed that the large planets would revolve on their axes more slowly than the small ones: our terrestrial experiences of big and little bodies incline us to expect this. It is a corollary from the Nebular Hypothesis, however, more especially when interpreted as above, that while large planets will rotate rapidly, small ones will rotate slowly; and we find that in fact they do so. Other things equal, a concentrating nebulous mass which is diffused through a wide space, and whose outer parts have, therefore, to travel from great distances to the common centre of gravity, will acquire a high axial velocity in course of its aggregation; and conversely with a small mass. Still more marked will be the difference where the form of the genetic ring conspires to increase the rate of rotation. Other things equal, a genetic ring which is broadest in the direction of its plane will produce a mass rotating faster than one which is broadest at right angles to its plane; and if the ring is absolutely as well as relatively broad, the rotation will be very rapid. These conditions were, as we saw, fulfilled in the case of Jupiter; and Jupiter turns round his axis in less than ten hours. Saturn, in whose case, as above explained, the conditions were less favourable to rapid rotation, takes nearly ten hours and a half. While Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury, whose rings must have been slender, take more than double that time: the smallest taking the longest.
From the planets let us now pass to the satellites. Here, beyond the conspicuous facts commonly adverted to, that they go round their primaries in the directions in which these turn on their axes, in planes diverging but little from their equators, and in orbits nearly circular, there are several significant traits which must not be passed over.
One of them is that each set of satellites repeats in miniature the relations of the planets to the Sun, both in certain respects above named and in the order of their sizes. On progressing from the outside of the Solar System to its centre, we see that there are four large external planets, and four internal ones which are comparatively small. A like contrast holds between the outer and inner satellites in every case. Among the four satellites of Jupiter, the parallel is maintained as well as the comparative smallness of the number allows: the two outer ones are the largest, and the two inner ones the smallest. According to the most recent observations made by Mr. Lassell, the like is true of the four satellites of Uranus. In the case of Saturn, who has eight secondary planets revolving round him, the likeness is still more close in arrangement as in number: the three outer satellites are large, the inner ones small; and the contrasts of size are here much greater between the largest, which is nearly as big as Mars, and the smallest, which is with difficulty discovered even by the best telescopes. But the analogy does not end here. Just as with the planets, there is at first a general increase of size on travelling inwards from Neptune and Uranus, which do not differ very widely, to Saturn, which is much larger, and to Jupiter, which is the largest; so of the eight satellites of Saturn, the largest is not the outermost, but the outermost save two; so of Jupiter’s four secondaries, the largest is the most remote but one. Now these parallelisms are inexplicable by the theory of final causes. For purposes of lighting, if this be the presumed object of these attendant bodies, it would have been far better had the larger been the nearer: at present, their remoteness renders them of less service than the smallest. To the Nebular Hypothesis, however, these analogies give further support. They show the action of a common physical cause. They imply a law of genesis, holding in the secondary systems as in the primary system.
Still more instructive shall we find the distribution of the satellites—their absence in some instances, and their presence in other instances, in smaller or greater numbers. The argument from design fails to account for this distribution. Supposing it be granted that planets nearer the Sun than ourselves, have no need of moons (though, considering that their nights are as dark, and, relatively to their brilliant days, even darker than ours, the need seems quite as great)—supposing this to be granted; how are we to explain the fact that Uranus has but half as many moons as Saturn, though he is at double the distance? While, however, the current presumption is untenable, the Nebular Hypothesis furnishes us with an explanation. It enables us to predict where satellites will be abundant and where they will be absent. The reasoning is as follows.
In a rotating nebulous spheroid which is concentrating into a planet, there are at work two antagonist mechanical tendencies—the centripetal and the centrifugal. While the force of gravitation draws all the atoms of the spheroid together, their tangential momentum is resolvable into two parts, of which one resists gravitation. The ratio which this centrifugal force bears to gravitation, varies, other things equal, as the square of the velocity. Hence, the aggregation of a rotating nebulous spheroid will be more or less hindered by this resisting force, according as the rate of rotation is high or low: the opposition, in equal spheroids, being four times as great when the rotation is twice as rapid; nine times as great when it is three times as rapid; and so on. Now the detachment of a ring from a planet-forming body of nebulous matter, implies that at its equatorial zone the increasing centrifugal force consequent on concentration has become so great as to balance gravity. Whence it is tolerably obvious that the detachment of rings will be most frequent from those masses in which the centrifugal tendency bears the greatest ratio to the gravitative tendency. Though it is not possible to calculate what ratio these two tendencies had to each other in the genetic spheroid which produced each planet, it is possible to calculate where each was the greatest and where the least. While it is true that the ratio which centrifugal force now bears to gravity at the equator of each planet, differs widely from that which it bore during the earlier stages of concentration; and while it is true that this change in the ratio, depending on the degree of contraction each planet has undergone, has in no two cases been the same; yet we may fairly conclude that where the ratio is still the greatest, it has been the greatest from the beginning. The satellite-forming tendency which each planet had, will be approximately indicated by the proportion now existing in it between the aggregating power, and the power that has opposed aggregation. On making the requisite calculations, a remarkable harmony with this inference comes out. The following table shows what fraction the centrifugal force is of the centripetal force in every case; and the relation which that fraction bears to the number of satellites.∗
Thus taking as our standard of comparison the Earth with its one moon, we see that Mercury, in which the centrifugal force is relatively less, has no moon. Mars, in which it is relatively much greater, has two moons. Jupiter, in which it is far greater, has four moons. Uranus, in which it is greater still, has certainly four, and more if Herschel was right. Saturn, in which it is the greatest, being nearly one-sixth of gravity, has, including his rings, eleven attendants. The only instance in which there is nonconformity with observation, is that of Venus. Here it appears that the centrifugal force is relatively greater than in the Earth; and, according to the hypothesis, Venus ought to have a satellite. Respecting this anomaly several remarks are to be made. Without putting any faith in the alleged discovery of a satellite of Venus (repeated at intervals by five different observers), it may yet be contended that as the satellites of Mars eluded observation up to 1877, a satellite of Venus may have eluded observation up to the present time. Merely naming this as possible, but not probable, a consideration of more weight is that the period of rotation of Venus is but indefinitely fixed, and that a small diminution in the estimated angular velocity of her equator would bring the result into congruity with the hypothesis. Further, it may be remarked that not exact, but only general, congruity is to be expected; since the process of condensation of each planet from nebulous matter can scarcely be expected to have gone on with absolute uniformity: the angular velocities of the superposed strata of nebulous matter probably differed from one another in degrees unlike in each case; and such differences would affect the satellite-forming tendency. But without making much of these possible explanations of the discrepancy, the correspondence between inference and fact which we find in so many planets, may be held to afford strong support to the Nebular Hypothesis.
Certain more special peculiarities of the satellites must be mentioned as suggestive. One of them is the relation between the period of revolution and that of rotation. No discoverable purpose is served by making the Moon go round its axis in the same time that it goes round the Earth: for our convenience, a more rapid axial motion would have been equally good; and for any possible inhabitants of the Moon, much better. Against the alternative supposition, that the equality occurred by accident, the probabilities are, as Laplace says, infinity to one. But to this arrangement, which is explicable neither as the result of design nor of chance, the Nebular Hypothesis furnishes a clue. In his Exposition du Système du Monde, Laplace shows, by reasoning too detailed to be here repeated, that under the circumstances such a relation of movements would be likely to establish itself.
Among Jupiter’s satellites, which severally display these same synchronous movements, there also exists a still more remarkable relation. “If the mean angular velocity of the first satellite be added to twice that of the third, the sum will be equal to three times that of the second;” and “from this it results that the situations of any two of them being given, that of the third can be found.” Now here, as before, no conceivable advantage results. Neither in this case can the connexion have been accidental: the probabilities are infinity to one to the contrary. But again, according to Laplace, the Nebular Hypothesis supplies a solution. Are not these significant facts?
Most significant fact of all, however, is that presented by the rings of Saturn. As Laplace remarks, they are, as it were, still extant witnesses of the genetic process he propounded. Here we have, continuing permanently, forms of aggregation like those through which each planet and satellite once passed; and their movements are just what, in conformity with the hypothesis, they should be. “La durée de la rotation d’une planète doit done être, d’après cette hypothèse, plus petite que la durée de la révolution du corps le plus voisin qui circule autour d’elle,” says Laplace. And he then points out that the time of Saturn’s rotation is to that of his rings as 427 to 438—an amount of difference such as was to be expected.∗
Respecting Saturn’s rings it may be further remarked that the place of their occurrence is not without significance. Rings detached early in the process of concentration, consisting of gaseous matter having extremely little power of cohesion, can have little ability to resist the disruptive forces due to imperfect balance; and, therefore, collapse into satellites. A ring of a denser kind, whether solid, liquid, or composed of small discrete masses (as Saturn’s rings are now concluded to be), we can expect will be formed only near the body of a planet when it has reached so late a stage of concentration that its equatorial portions contain matters capable of easy precipitation into liquid and, finally, solid forms. Even then it can be produced only under special conditions. Gaining a rapidly-increasing preponderance as the gravitative force does during the closing stages of concentration, the centrifugal force cannot, in ordinary cases, cause the leaving behind of rings when the mass has become dense. Only where the centrifugal force has all along been very great, and remains powerful to the last, as in Saturn, can we expect dense rings to be formed.
We find, then, that besides those most conspicuous peculiarities of the Solar System which first suggested the theory of its evolution, there are many minor ones pointing in the same direction. Were there no other evidence, these mechanical arrangements would, considered in their totality, go far to establish the Nebular Hypothesis.
From the mechanical arrangements of the Solar System, turn we now to its physical characters; and, first, let us consider the inferences deducible from relative specific gravities.
The fact that, speaking generally, the denser planets are the nearer to the Sun, has been by some considered as adding another to the many indications of nebular origin. Legitimately assuming that the outermost parts of a rotating nebulous spheroid, in its earlier stages of concentration, must be comparatively rare; and that the increasing density which the whole mass acquires as it contracts, must hold of the outermost parts as well as the rest; it is argued that the rings successively detached will be more and more dense, and will form planets of higher and higher specific gravities. But passing over other objections, this explanation is quite inadequate to account for the facts. Using the Earth as a standard of comparison, the relative densities run thus:—
Two insurmountable objections are presented by this series. The first is, that the progression is but a broken one. Neptune is denser than Saturn, which, by the hypothesis, it ought not to be. Uranus is denser than Jupiter, which it ought not to be. Uranus is denser than Saturn, and the Earth is denser than Venus—facts which not only give no countenance to, but directly contradict, the alleged explanation. The second objection, still more manifestly fatal, is the low specific gravity of the Sun. If, when the matter of the Sun filled the orbit of Mercury, its state of aggregation was such that the detached ring formed a planet having a specific gravity equal to that of iron; then the Sun itself, now that it has concentrated, should have a specific gravity much greater than that of iron; whereas its specific gravity is only half as much again as that of water. Instead of being far denser than the nearest planet, it is but one-fifth as dense.
While these anomalies render untenable the position that the relative specific gravities of the planets are direct indications of nebular condensation; it by no means follows that they negative it. Several causes may be assigned for these unlikenesses:—1. Differences among the planets in respect of the elementary substances composing them; or in the proportions of such elementary substances, if they contain the same kinds. 2. Differences among them in respect of the quantities of matter they contain; for, other things equal, the mutual gravitation of molecules will make a larger mass denser than a smaller. 3. Differences of temperatures; for, other things equal, those having higher temperatures will have lower specific gravities. 4. Differences of physical states, as being gaseous, liquid, or solid; or, otherwise, differences in the relative amounts of the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter they contain.
It is quite possible, and we may indeed say probable, that all these causes come into play, and that they take various shares in the production of the several results. But difficulties stand in the way of definite conclusions. Nevertheless, if we revert to the hypothesis of nebular genesis, we are furnished with partial explanations if nothing more.
In the cooling of celestial bodies several factors are concerned. The first and simplest is the one illustrated at every fire-side by the rapid blackening of little cinders which fall into the ashes, in contrast with the long-continued redness of big lumps. This factor is the relation between increase of surface and increase of content: surfaces, in similar bodies, increasing as the squares of the dimensions while contents increase as their cubes. Hence, on comparing the Earth with Jupiter, whose diameter is about eleven times that of the Earth, it results that while his surface is 125 times as great, his content is 1390 times as great. Now even (supposing we assume like temperatures and like densities) if the only effect were that through a given area of surface eleven times more matter had to be cooled in the one case than in the other, there would be a vast difference between the times occupied in concentration. But, in virtue of a second factor, the difference would be much greater than that consequent on these geometrical relations. The escape of heat from a cooling mass is effected by conduction, or by convection, or by both. In a solid it is wholly by conduction; in a liquid or gas the chief part is played by convection—by circulating currents which continually transpose the hotter and cooler parts. Now in fluid spheroids—gaseous, or liquid, or mixed—increasing size entails an increasing obstacle to cooling, consequent on the increasing distances to be travelled by the circulating currents. Of course the relation is not a simple one: the velocities of the currents will be unlike. It is manifest, however, that in a sphere of eleven times the diameter, the transit of matter from centre to surface and back from surface to centre, will take a much longer time; even if its movement is unrestrained. But its movement is, in such cases as we are considering, greatly restrained. In a rotating spheroid there come into play retarding forces augmenting with the velocity of rotation. In such a spheroid the respective portions of matter (supposing them equal in their angular velocities round the axis, which they will tend more and more to become as the density increases), must vary in their absolute velocities according to their distances from the axis; and each portion cannot have its distance from the axis changed by circulating currents, which it must continually be, without loss or gain in its quantity of motion: through the medium of fluid friction, force must be expended, now in increasing its motion and now in retarding its motion. Hence, when the larger spheroid has also a higher velocity of rotation, the relative slowness of the circulating currents, and the consequent retardation of cooling, must be much greater than is implied by the extra distances to be travelled.
And now observe the correspondence between inference and fact. In the first place, if we compare the group of the great planets, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, with the group of the small planets, Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury, we see that low density goes along with great size and great velocity of rotation, and that high density goes along with small size and small velocity of rotation. In the second place, we are shown this relation still more clearly if we compare the extreme instances—Saturn and Mercury. The special contrast of these two, like the general contrast of the groups, points to the truth that low density, like the satellite-forming tendency, is associated with the ratio borne by centrifugal force to gravity; for in the case of Saturn with his many satellites and least density, centrifugal force at the equator is nearly of gravity, whereas in Mercury with no satellite and greatest density centrifugal force is but of gravity.
There are, however, certain factors which, working in an opposite way, qualify and complicate these effects. Other things equal, mutual gravitation among the parts of a large mass will cause a greater evolution of heat than is similarly caused in a small mass; and the resulting difference of temperature will tend to produce more rapid dissipation of heat. To this must be added the greater velocity of the circulating currents which the intenser forces at work in larger spheroids will produce—a contrast made still greater by the relatively smaller retardation by friction to which the more voluminous currents are exposed. In these causes, joined with causes previously indicated, we may recognize a probable explanation of the otherwise anomalous fact that the Sun, though having a thousand times the mass of Jupiter, has yet reached as advanced a stage of concentration. For the force of gravity in the Sun, which at his surface is some ten times that at the surface of Jupiter, must expose his central parts to a pressure relatively very intense; producing, during contraction, a relatively rapid genesis of heat. And it is further to be remarked that, though the circulating currents in the Sun have far greater distances to travel, yet since his rotation is relatively so slow that the angular velocity of his substance is but about one-sixtieth of that of Jupiter’s substance, the resulting obstacle to circulating currents is relatively small, and the escape of heat far less retarded. Here, too, we may note that in the co-operation of these factors, there seems a reason for the greater concentration reached by Jupiter than by Saturn, though Saturn is the elder as well as the smaller of the two; for at the same time that the gravitative force in Jupiter is more than twice as great as in Saturn, his velocity of rotation is very little greater, so that the opposition of the centrifugal force to the centripetal is not much more than half.
But now, not judging more than roughly of the effects of these several factors, co-operating in various ways and degrees, some to aid concentration and others to resist it, it is sufficiently manifest that, other things equal, the larger nebulous spheroids, longer in losing their heat, will more slowly reach high specific gravities; and that where the contrasts in size are so immense as those between the greater and the smaller planets, the smaller may have reached relatively high specific gravities when the greater have reached but relatively low ones. Further, it appears that such qualification of the process as results from the more rapid genesis of heat in the larger masses, will be counter-valied where high velocity of rotation greatly impedes the circulating currents. Thus interpreted then, the various specific gravities of the planets may be held to furnish further evidences supporting the Nebular Hypothesis.
Increase of density and escape of heat are correlated phenomena, and hence in the foregoing section, treating of the respective densities of the celestial bodies in connexion with nebular condensation, much has been said and implied respecting the accompanying genesis and dissipation of heat. Quite apart, however, from the foregoing arguments and inferences, there is to be noted the fact that in the present temperatures of the celestial bodies at large we find additional supports to the hypothesis; and these, too, of the most substantial character. For if, as is implied above, heat must inevitably be generated by the aggregation of diffused matter, we ought to find in all the heavenly bodies, either present high temperatures or marks of past high temperatures. This we do, in the places and in the degrees which the hypothesis requires.
Observations showing that as we descend below the Earth’s surface there is a progressive increase of heat, joined with the conspicuous evidence furnished by volcanoes, necessitate the conclusion that the temperature is very high at great depths. Whether, as some believe, the interior of the Earth is still molten, or whether, as Sir William Thomson contends, it must be solid; there is agreement in the inference that its heat is intense. And it has been further shown that the rate at which the temperature increases on descending below the surface, is such as would be found in a mass which had been cooling for an indefinite period. The Moon, too, shows us, by its corrugations and its conspicuous extinct volcanoes, that in it there has been a process of refrigeration and contraction, like that which has gone on in the Earth. There is no teleological explanation of these facts. The frequent destructions of life by earthquakes and volcanoes, imply, rather, that it would have been better had the Earth been created with a low internal temperature. But if we contemplate the facts in connexion with the Nebular Hypothesis, we see that this still-continued high internal heat is one of its corollaries. The Earth must have passed through the gaseous and the molten conditions before it became solid, and must for an almost infinite period by its internal heat continue to bear evidence of this origin.
The group of giant planets furnishes remarkable evidence. The a priori inference drawn above, that great size joined with relatively high ratio of centrifugal force to gravity must greatly retard aggregation, and must thus, by checking the genesis and dissipation of heat, make the process of cooling a slow one, has of late years received verifications from inferences drawn a posteriori; so that now the current conclusion among astronomers is that in physical condition the great planets are in stages midway between that of the Earth and that of the Sun. The fact that the centre of Jupiter’s disc is twice or thrice as bright as his periphery, joined with the facts that he seems to radiate more light than is accounted for by reflection of the Sun’s rays, and that his spectrum shows the “red-star line”, are taken as evidences of luminosity; while the immense and rapid perturbations in his atmosphere, far greater than could be caused by heat received from the Sun, as well as the formation of spots analogous to those of the Sun, which also, like those of the Sun, show a higher rate of rotation near the equator than further from it, are held to imply high internal temperature. Thus in Jupiter, as also in Saturn, we find states which, not admitting of any teleological explanations (for they manifestly exclude the possibility of life), admit of explanations derived from the Nebular Hypothesis.
But the argument from temperature does not end here. There remains to be noticed a more conspicuous and still more significant fact. If the Solar System was produced by the concentration of diffused matter, which evolved heat while gravitating into its present dense form; then there is an obvious implication. Other things equal, the latest-formed mass will be the latest in cooling—will, for an almost infinite time, possess a greater heat than the earlier-formed ones. Other things equal, the largest mass will, because of its superior aggregative force, become hotter than the others, and radiate more intensely. Other things equal, the largest mass, notwithstanding the higher temperature it reaches, will, in consequence of its relatively small surface, be the slowest in losing its evolved heat. And hence, if there is one mass which was not only formed after the rest, but exceeds them enormously in size, it follows that this one will reach an intensity of incandescence far beyond that reached by the rest; and will continue in a state of intense incandescence long after the rest have cooled. Such a mass we have in the Sun. It is a corollary from the Nebular Hypothesis, that the matter forming the Sun assumed its present integrated shape at a period much more recent than that at which the planets became definite bodies. The quantity of matter contained in the Sun is nearly five million times that contained in the smallest planet, and above a thousand times that contained in the largest. And while, from the enormous gravitative force of his parts to their common centre, the evolution of heat has been intense, the facilities of radiation have been relatively small. Hence the still-continued high temperature. Just that condition of the central body which is a necessary inference from the Nebular Hypothesis, we find actually existing in the Sun.
[The paragraph which here follows, though it contains some questionable propositions, I reproduce just as it stood when first published in 1858, for reasons which will presently be apparent.]
It may be well to consider more closely, what is the probable condition of the Sun’s surface. Round the globe of incandescent molten substances, thus conceived to form the visible body of the Sun [which in conformity with the argument in a previous section, now transferred to the Addenda, was inferred to be hollow and filled with gaseous matter at high tension] there is known to exist a voluminous atmosphere: the inferior brilliancy of the Sun’s border, and the appearances during a total eclipse, alike show this. What now must be the constitution of this atmosphere? At a temperature approaching a thousand times that of molten iron, which is the calculated temperature of the solar surface, very many, if not all, of the substances we know as solid, would become gaseous; and though the Sun’s enormous attractive force must be a powerful check on this tendency to assume the form of vapour, yet it cannot be questioned that if the body of the Sun consists of molten substances, some of them must be constantly undergoing evaporation. That the dense gases thus continually being generated will form the entire mass of the solar atmosphere, is not probable. If anything is to be inferred, either from the Nebular Hypothesis, or from the analogies supplied by the planets, it must be concluded that the outermost part of the solar atmosphere consists of what are called permanent gases—gases that are not condensible into fluid even at low temperatures. If we consider what must have been the state of things here, when the surface of the Earth was molten, we shall see that round the still molten surface of the Sun, there probably exists a stratum of dense aeriform matter, made up of sublimed metals and metallic compounds, and above this a stratum of comparatively rare medium analogous to air. What now will happen with these two strata? Did they both consist of permanent gases, they could not remain separate: according to a well-known law, they would eventually form a homogeneous mixture. But this will by no means happen when the lower stratum consists of matters that are gaseous only at excessively high temperatures. Given off from a molten surface, ascending, expanding, and cooling, these will presently reach a limit of elevation above which they cannot exist as vapour, but must condense and precipitate. Meanwhile the upper stratum, habitually charged with its quantum of these denser matters, as our air with its quantum of water, and ready to deposit them on any depression of temperature, must be habitually unable to take up any more of the lower stratum; and therefore this lower stratum will remain quite distinct from it.∗
Considered in their ensemble, the several groups of evidences assigned amount almost to proof. We have seen that, when critically examined, the speculations of late years current respecting the nature of the nebulæ, commit their promulgators to sundry absurdities; while, on the other hand, we see that the various appearances these nebulæ present, are explicable as different stages in the precipitation and aggregation of diffused matter. We find that the immense majority of comets (i.e. omitting the periodic ones), by their physical constitution, their immensely-extended and variously-directed paths, the distribution of those paths, and their manifest structural relation to the Solar System, bear testimony to the past existence of that system in a nebulous form. Not only do those obvious peculiarities in the motions of the planets which first suggested the Nebular Hypothesis, supply proofs of it, but on closer examination we discover, in the slightly-diverging inclinations of their orbits, in their various rates of rotation, and their differently-directed axes of rotation, that the planets yield us yet further testimony; while the satellites, by sundry traits, and especially by their occurrence in greater or less abundance where the hypothesis implies greater or less abundance, confirm this testimony. By tracing out the process of planetary condensation, we are led to conclusions respecting the physical states of planets which explain their anomalous specific gravities. Once more, it turns out that what is inferable from the Nebular Hypothesis respecting the temperatures of celestial bodies, is just what observation establishes; and that both the absolute and the relative temperatures of the Sun and planets are thus accounted for. When we contemplate these various evidences in their totality—when we observe that, by the Nebular Hypothesis, the leading phenomena of the Solar System, and the heavens in general, are explicable; and when, on the other hand, we consider that the current cosmogony is not only without a single fact to stand on, but is at variance with all our positive knowledge of Nature, we see that the proof becomes overwhelming.
It remains only to point out that while the genesis of the Solar System, and of countless other systems like it, is thus rendered comprehensible, the ultimate mystery continues as great as ever. The problem of existence is not solved: it is simply removed further back. The Nebular Hypothesis throws no light on the origin of diffused matter; and diffused matter as much needs accounting for as concrete matter. The genesis of an atom is not easier to conceive than the genesis of a planet. Nay, indeed, so far from making the Universe less a mystery than before, it makes it a greater mystery. Creation by manufacture is a much lower thing than creation by evolution. A man can put together a machine; but he cannot make a machine develop itself. That our harmonious universe once existed potentially as formless diffused matter, and has slowly grown into its present organized state, is a far more astonishing fact than would have been its formation after the artificial method vulgarly supposed. Those who hold it legitimate to argue from phenomena to noumena, may rightly contend that the Nebular Hypothesis implies a First Cause as much transcending “the mechanical God of Paley,” as this does the fetish of the savage.
Speculative as is much of the foregoing essay, it appears undesirable to include in it anything still more speculative. For this reason I have decided to set forth separately some views concerning the genesis of the so-called elements during nebular condensation, and concerning the accompanying physical effects. At the same time it has seemed best to detach from the essay some of the more debatable conclusions originally contained in it; so that its general argument may not be needlessly implicated with them. These new portions, together with the old portions which re-appear more or less modified, I here append in a series of notes.
Note I. For the belief that the so-called elements are compound there are both special reasons and general reasons. Among the special may be named the parallelism between allotropy and isomerism; the numerous lines in the spectrum of each element; and the cyclical law of Newlands and Mendeljeff. Of the more general reasons, which, as distinguished from these chemical or chemico-pysical ones, may fitly be called cosmical, the following are the chief.
The general law of evolution, if it does not actually involve the conclusion that the so-called elements are compounds, yet affords a priori ground for suspecting that they are such. The implication is that, while the matter composing the Solar System has progressed physically from that relatively-homogeneous state which it had as a nebula to that relatively-homogeneous state which it had as a nebula to that relatively-heterogeneous state presented by Sun, planets, and satellites, it has also progressed chemically, from the relatively-heterogeneous state in which it was composed of one or a few types of matter, to that relatively-heterogeneous state in which it is composed of many types of matter very diverse in their properties. This deduction from the law which holds throughout the cosmos as now known to us, would have much weight even were it unsupported by induction; but a survey of chemical phenomena at large discloses several groups of inductive evidences supporting it.
The first is that since the cooling of the Earth reached an advanced stage, the components of its crust have been ever increasing in heterogeneity. When the so-called elements, originally existing in a dissociated state, united into oxides, acids, and other binary compounds, the total number of different substances was immensely augmented, the new substances were more complex than the old, and their properties were more varied. That is, the assemblage became more heterogeneous in its kinds, in the composition of each kind, and in the range of chemical characters. When, at a later period, there arose salts and other compounds of similar degrees of complexity, there was again an increase of heterogeneity, alike in the aggregate and in its members. And when, still later, matters classed as organic became possible, the multiformity was yet further augmented in kindred ways. If, then, chemical evolution, so far as we can trace it, has been from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, may we not fairly suppose that it has been so from the beginning? If, from late stages in the Earth’s history, we run back, and find the lines of chemical evolution continually converging, until they bring us to bodies which we cannot decompose, may we not suspect that, could we run back these lines still further, we should come to still decreasing heterogeneity in the number and nature of the substances, until we reached something like homogeneity?
A parallel argument may be derived from consideration of the affinities and stabilities of chemical compounds. Beginning with the complex nitrogenous bodies out of which living things are formed, and which, in the history of the Earth, are the most modern, at the same time that they are the most heterogeneous, we see that the affinities and stabilities of these are extremely small. Their molecules do not enter bodily into union with those of other substances so as to form more complex compounds still, and their components often fail to hold together under ordinary conditions. A stage lower in degree of composition we come to the vast assemblage of oxy-hydro-carbons, numbers of which show many and decided affinities, and are stable at common temperatures. Passing to the inorganic group, we are shown by the salts &c. strong affinities between their components and unions which are, in many cases, not very easily broken. And then when we come to the oxides, acids, and other binary compounds, we see that in many cases the elements of which they are formed, when brought into the presence of one another under favourable conditions, unite with violence; and that many of their unions cannot be dissolved by heat alone. If, then, as we go back from the most modern and most complex substances to the most ancient and simplest substances, we see, on the average, a great increase in affinity and stability, it results that if the same law holds with the simplest substances known to us, the components of these, if they are compound, may be assumed to have united with affinities far more intense than any we have experience of, and to cling together with tenacities far exceeding the tenacities with which chemistry acquaints us. Hence the existence of a class of substances which are undecomposable and therefore seem simple, appears to be an implication; and the corollary is that these were formed during early stages of terrestrial concentration, under conditions of heat and pressure which we cannot now parallel.
Yet another support for the belief that the so-called elements are compounds, is derived from a comparison of them, considered as an aggregate ascending in their molecular weights, with the aggregate of bodies known to be compound, similarly considered in their ascending molecular weights. Contrast the binary compounds as a class with the quaternary compounds as a class. The molecules constituting oxides (whether alkaline or acid or neutral) chlorides, sulphurets, &c. are relatively small; and, combining with great avidity, form stable compounds. On the other hand, the molecules constituting nitrogenous bodies are relatively vast and are chemically inert; and such combinations as their simpler types enter into, cannot withstand disturbing forces. Now a like difference is seen if we contrast with one another the so-called elements. Those of relatively-low molecular weights—oxygen, hydrogen, potassium, sodium, &c.,—show great readiness to unite among themselves; and, indeed, many of them cannot be prevented from uniting under ordinary conditions. Contrariwise, under ordinary conditions the substances of high molecular weights—the “noble metals”—are indifferent to other substances; and such compounds as they do form under conditions specially adjusted, are easily destroyed. Thus as, among the bodies we know to be compound, increasing molecular weight is associated with the appearance of certain characters, and as, among the bodies we class as simple, increasing molecular weight is associated with the appearance of similar characters, the composite nature of the elements is in another way pointed to.
There has to be added one further class of phenomena, congruous with those above named, which here specially concerns us. Looking generally at chemical unions, we see that the heat evolved usually decreases as the degree of composition, and consequent massiveness, of the molecules, increases. In the first place, we have the fact that during the formation of simple compounds the heat evolved is much greater than that which is evolved during the formation of complex compounds: the elements, when uniting with one another, usually give out much heat; while, when the compounds they form are recompounded, but little heat is given out; and, as shown by the experiments of Prof. Andrews, the heat given out during the union of acids and bases is habitually smaller where the molecular weight of the base is greater. Then, in the second place, we see that among the elements themselves, the unions of those having low molecular weights result in far more heat than do the unions of those having high molecular weights. If we proceed on the supposition that the so-called elements are compounds, and if this law, if not universal, holds of undecomposable substances as of decomposable, then there are two implications. The one is that those compoundings and recompoundings by which the elements were formed, must have been accompanied by degrees of heat exceeding any degrees of heat known to us. The other is that among these compoundings and recompoundings themselves, those by which the small-moleculed elements were formed produced more intense heat than those by which the large-moleculed elements were formed: the elements formed by the final recompoundings being necessarily later in origin, and at the same time less stable, than the earlier-formed ones.
Note II. May we from these propositions, and especially from the last, draw any conclusions respecting the evolution of heat during nebular condensation? And do such conclusions affect in any way the conclusions now current?
In the first place, it seems inferable from physico-chemical facts at large, that only through the instrumentality of those combinations which formed the elements, did the concentration of diffused nebulous matter into concrete masses become possible. If we remember that hydrogen and oxygen in their uncombined states oppose, the one an insuperable and the other an almost insuperable, resistance to liquefaction, while when combined the compound assumes the liquid state with facility, we may suspect that in like manner the simpler types of matter out of which the elements were formed, could not have been reduced even to such degrees of density as the known gases show us, without what we may call proto-chemical unions: the implication being that after the heat resulting from each of such proto-chemical unions had escaped, mutual gravitation of the parts was able to produce further condensation of the nebulous mass.
If we thus distinguish between the two sources of heat accompanying nebular condensation—the heat due to proto-chemical combinations and that due to the contraction caused by gravitation (both of them, however, being interpretable as consequent on loss of motion), it may be inferred that they take different shares during the earlier and during the later stages of aggregation. It seems probable that while the diffusion is great and the force of mutual gravitation small, the chief source of heat is combination of units of matter, simpler than any known to us, into such units of matter as those we know; while, conversely, when there has been reached close aggregation, the chief source of heat is gravitation, with consequent pressure and gradual contraction. Supposing this to be so, let us ask what may be inferred. If at the time when the nebulous spheroid from which the Solar System resulted, filled the orbit of Neptune, it had reached such a degree of density as enabled those units of matter which compose the sodium molecules to enter into combination; and if, in conformity with the analogies above indicated, the heat evolved by this proto-chemical combination was great compared with the heats evolved by the chemical combinations known to us; the implication is that the nebulous spheroid, in the course of its contraction, would have to get rid of a much larger quantity of heat than it would, did it commence at any ordinary temperature and had only to lose the heat consequent on contraction. That is to say, in estimating the past period during which solar emission of heat has been going on at a high rate, much must depend on the initial temperature assumed; and this may have been rendered intense by the proto-chemical changes which took place in early stages.∗
Respecting the future duration of the solar heat, there must also be differences between the estimates made according as we do or do not take into account the proto-chemical changes which possibly have still to take place. True as it may be that the quantity of heat to be emitted is measured by the quantity of motion to be lost, and that this must be the same whether the approximation of the molecules is effected by chemical unions, or by mutual gravitation, or by both; yet, evidently, everything must turn on the degree of condensation supposed to be eventually reached; and this must in large measure depend on the natures of the substances eventually formed. Though, by spectrum-analysis, platinum has recently been detected in the solar atmosphere, it seems clear that the metals of low molecular weights greatly predominate; and supposing the foregoing arguments to be valid, it may be inferred, as not improbable, that the compoundings and recompoundings by which the heavy-moleculed elements are produced, not hitherto possible in large measure, will hereafter take place; and that, as a result, the Sun’s density will finally become very great in comparison with what it is now. I say “not hitherto possible in large measure”, because it is a feasible supposition that they may be formed, and can continue to exist, only in certain outer parts of the Solar mass, where the pressure is sufficiently great while the heat is not too great. And if this be so, the implication is that the interior body of the Sun, higher in temperature than its peripheral layers, may consist wholly of the metals of low atomic weights, and that this may be a part cause of his low specific gravity; and a further implication is that when, in course of time, the internal temperature falls, the heavy-moleculed elements, as they severally become capable of existing in it, may arise: the formation of each having an evolution of heat as its concomitant.∗ If so, it would seem to follow that the amount of heat to be emitted by the Sun, and the length of the period during which the emission will go on, must be taken as much greater than if the Sun is supposed to be permanently constituted of the elements now predominating in him, and to be capable of only that degree of condensation which such composition permits.
Note III. Are the internal structures of celestial bodies all the same, or do they differ? And if they differ, can we, from the process of nebular condensation, infer the conditions under which they assume one or other character? In the foregoing essay as originally published, these questions were discussed; and though the conclusions reached cannot be sustained in the form given to them, they foreshadow conclusions which may, perhaps, be sustained. Referring to the conceivable causes of unlike specific gravities in the members of the solar system, it was said that these might be—
“1. Differences between the kinds of matter or matters composing them. 2. Differences between the quantities of matter; for, other things equal, the mutual gravitation of atoms will make a large mass denser than a small one. 3. Differences between the structures: the masses being either solid or liquid throughout, or having central cavities filled with elastic aëriform substance. Of these three conceivable causes, that commonly assigned is the first, more or less modified by the second.”
Written as this was before spectrum-analysis had made its disclosures, no notice could of course be taken of the way in which these conflict with the first of the foregoing suppositions; but after pointing out other objections to it the argument continued thus:—
“However, spite of these difficulties, the current hypothesis is, that the Sun and planets, inclusive of the Earth, are either solid or liquid, or have solid crusts with liquid nuclei.”∗
After saying that the familiarity of this hypothesis must not delude us into uncritical acceptance of it, but that if any other hypothesis is physically possible it may reasonably be entertained, it was argued that by tracing out the process of condensation in a nebulous spheroid, we are led to infer the eventual formation of a molten shell with a nucleus consisting of gaseous matter at high tension. The paragraph which then follows runs thus:—
“But what,” it may be asked, “will become of this gaseous nucleus when exposed to the enormous gravitative pressure of a shell some thousands of miles thick? How can aeriform matter withstand such a pressure?” Very readily. It has been proved that, even when the heat generated by compression is allowed to escape, some gases remain uncondensible by any force we can produce. An unsuccessful attempt lately made in Vienna to liquify oxygen, clearly shows this enormous resistance. The steel piston employed was literally shortened by the pressure used; and yet the gas remained unliquified! If, then, the expansive force is thus immense when the heat evolved is dissipated, what must it be when that heat is in great measure detained, as in the case we are considering? Indeed the experiences of M. Cagniard de Latour have shown that gases may, under pressure, acquire the density of liquids while retaining the aeriform state, provided the temperature continues extremely high. In such a case, every addition to the heat is an addition to the repulsive power of the atoms: the increased pressure itself generates an increased ability to resist; and this remains true to whatever extent the compression is carried. Indeed it is a corollary from the persistence of force that if, under increasing pressure, a gas retains all the heat evolved, its resisting force is absolutely unlimited. Hence the internal planetary structure we have described is as physically stable a one as that commonly assumed.”
Had this paragraph, and the subsequent paragraphs, been written five years later, when Prof. Andrews had published an account of his researches, the propositions they contain, while rendered more specific and at the same time more defensible, would perhaps have been freed from the erroneous implication that the internal structure indicated is an universal one. Let us, while guided by Prof. Andrews’ results, consider what would probably be the successive changes in a condensing nebulous spheroid.
Prof. Andrews has shown that for each kind of gaseous matter there is a temperature above which no amount of pressure can cause liquefaction. The remark, made a priori in the above extract, “that if, under increasing pressure, a gas retains all the heat evolved, its resisting force is absolutely unlimited“, harmonizes with the inductively-reached result that if the temperature is not lowered to its “critical point” a gas does not liquify, however great the force applied. At the same time Prof. Andrews’ experiments imply that, supposing the temperature to be lowered to the point at which liquefaction becomes possible, then liquefaction will take place where there is first reached the required pressure. What are the corollaries in relation to concentrating nebulous spheroids?
Assume a spheroid of such size as will form one of the inferior planets, and consisting externally of a voluminous, cloudy atmosphere composed of the less condensible elements, and internally of metallic gases: such internal gases being kept by convection-currents at temperatures not very widely differing. And assume that continuous radiation has brought the internal mass of metallic gases down to the critical point of the most condensible. May we not say that there is a size of the spheroid such that the pressure will not be great enough to produce liquefaction at any other place than the centre? or, in other words, that in the process of decreasing temperature and increasing pressure, the centre will be the place at which the combined conditions of pressure and temperature will be first reached? If so, liquefaction, commencing at the centre, will spread thence to the periphery; and, in virtue of the law that solids have higher melting points under pressure than when free, it may be that solidification will similarly, at a later stage, begin at the centre and progress outwards: eventually producing, in that case, a state such as Sir William Thomson alleges exists in the Earth. But now suppose that instead of such a spheroid, we assume one of, say, twenty or thirty times the mass; what will then happen? Notwithstanding convection-currents, the temperature at the centre must always be higher than elsewhere; and in the process of cooling the “critical point” of temperature will sooner be reached in the outer parts. Though the requisite pressure will not exist near the surface, there is evidently, in a large spheroid, a depth below the surface at which the pressure will be great enough, if the temperature is sufficiently low. Hence it is inferable that somewhere between centre and surface in the supposed larger spheroid, there will arise that state described by Prof. Andrews, in which “flickering striæ” of liquid float in gaseous matter of equal density. And it may be inferred that gradually, as the process goes on, these striæ will become more abundant while the gaseous interspaces diminish; until, eventually, the liquid becomes continuous. Thus there will result a molten shell containing a gaseous nucleus equally dense with itself at their surface of contact and more dense at the centre—a molten shell which will slowly thicken by additions to both exterior and interior.
That a solid crust will eventually form on this molten shell may be reasonably concluded. To the demurrer that solidification cannot commence at the surface, because the solids formed would sink, there are two replies. The first is that various metals expand while solidifying, and therefore would float. The second is that since the envelope of the supposed spheroid would consist of the gases and non-metallic elements, compounds of these with the metals and with one another would continually accumulate on the molten shell; and the crust, consisting of oxides, chlorides, sulphurets, and the rest, having much less specific gravity than the molten shell, would be readily supported by it.
Clearly a planet thus constituted would be in an unstable state. Always it would remain liable to a catastrophe resulting from change in its gaseous nucleus. If, under some condition of pressure and temperature eventually reached, the components of this suddenly entered into one of those proto-chemical combinations forming a new element, there might result an explosion capable of shattering the entire planet, and propelling its fragments in all directions with high velocities. If the hypothetical planet between Jupiter and Mars was intermediate in size as in position, it would apparently fulfil the conditions under which such a catastrophe might occur.
Note IV. The argument set forth in the foregoing note, is in part designed to introduce a question which seems to require re-consideration—the origin of the minor planets or planetoids. The hypothesis of Olbers, as propounded by him, implied that the disruption of the assumed planet between Mars and Jupiter had taken place at no very remote period in the past; and this implication was shown to be inadmissible by the discovery that there exists no such point of intersection of the orbits of the planetoids as the hypothesis requires. The inquiry whether, in the past, there was any nearer approach to a point of intersection than at present, having resulted in a negative, it is held that the hypothesis must be abandoned. It is, however, admitted that the mutual perturbations of the planetoids themselves would suffice, in the course of some millions of years, to destroy all traces of a place of intersection of their orbits, if it once existed. But if this be admitted why need the hypothesis be abandoned? Given such duration of the Solar System as is currently assumed, there seems no reason why lapse of a few millions of years should present any difficulty. The explosion may as well have taken place ten million years ago as at any more recent period. And whoever grants this must grant that the probability of the hypothesis has to be estimated from other data.
As a preliminary to closer consideration, let us ask what may be inferred from the rate of discovery of the planetoids, and from the sizes of those most recently discovered. In 1878, Prof. Newcomb, arguing that “the preponderance of evidence is on the side of the number and magnitude being limited”, says that “the newly discovered ones” “do not seem, on the average, to be materially smaller than those which were discovered ten years ago”; and further that “the new ones will probably be found to grow decidedly rare before another hundred are discovered”. Now, inspection of the tables contained in the just-published fourth edition of Chambers’ Descriptive Astronomy (vol. I) shows that whereas the planetoids discovered in 1868 (the year Prof. Newcomb singles out for comparison) have an average magnitude of 11·56 those discovered last year (1888) have an average magnitude of 12·43. Further, it is observable that though more than ninety have been discovered since Prof. Newcomb wrote, they have by no means become rare: the year 1888 having added ten to the list, and having therefore maintained the average rate of the preceding ten years. If, then, the indications Prof. Newcomb names, had they arisen, would have implied a limitation of the number, these opposite indications imply that the number is unlimited. The reasonable conclusion appears to be that these minor planets are to be counted not by hundreds but by thousands; that more powerful telescopes will go on revealing still smaller ones; and that additions to the list will cease only when the smallness ends in invisibility.
Commencing now to scrutinize the two hypotheses respecting the genesis of these multitudinous bodies, I may first remark concerning that of Laplace, that he might possibly not have propounded it had he known that instead of four such bodies there are hundreds, if not thousands. The supposition that they resulted from the breaking up of a nebulous ring into numerous small portions, instead of its collapse into one mass, might not, in such case, have seemed to him so probable. It would have appeared still less probable had he been aware of all that has since been discovered concerning the wide differences of the orbits in size, their various and often great eccentricities, and their various and often great inclinations. Let us look at these and other incongruous traits of them.
(1.) Between the greatest and least mean distances of the planetoids there is a space of 200 millions of miles; so that the whole of the Earth’s orbit might be placed between the limits of the zone occupied, and leave 7 millions of miles on either side: add to which that the widest excursions of the planetoids occupy a zone of 270 millions of miles. Had the rings from which Mercury, Venus, and the Earth were formed been one-sixth of the smaller width or one-ninth of the greater, they would have united: there would have been no nebulous rings at all, but a continuous disk. Nay more, since one of the planetoids trenches upon the orbit of Mars, it follows that the nebulous ring out of which the planetoids were formed must have overlapped that out of which Mars was formed. How do these implications consist with the nebular hypothesis? (2.) The tacit assumption usually made is that the different parts of a nebulous ring have the same angular velocities. Though this assumption may not be strictly true, yet it seems scarcely likely that it is so widely untrue as it would be had the inner part of the ring an angular velocity nearly thrice that of the outer. Yet this is implied. While the period of Thule is 8.8 years, the period of Medusa is 3·1 years. (3.) The eccentricity of Jupiter’s orbit is 0·04816, and the eccentricity of Mars’ orbit is 0·09311. Estimated by groups of the first found and last found of the planetoids, the average eccentricity of the assemblage is about three times that of Jupiter and more than one and a half times that of Mars; and among the members of the assemblage themselves, some have an eccentricity thirty-five times that of others. How came this nebulous zone, out of which it is supposed the planetoids arose, to have originated eccentricities so divergent from one another as well as from those of the neighbouring planets? (4.) A like question may be asked respecting the inclinations of the orbits. The average inclination of the planetoid-orbits is four times the inclination of Mars’ orbit and six times the inclination of Jupiter’s orbit; and among the planetoid-orbits themselves the inclinations of some are fifty times those of others. How are all these differences to be accounted for on the hypothesis of genesis from a nebulous ring? (5.) Much greater becomes the difficulty on inquiring how these extremely unlike eccentricities and inclinations came to co-exist before the parts of the nebulous ring separated, and how they survived after the separation. Were all the great eccentricities displayed by the outermost members of the group, and the small by the innermost members, and were the inclinations so distributed that the orbits having much belonged to one part of the group, and those having little to another part of the group; the difficulty of explanation might not be insuperable. But the arrangement is by no means this. The orbits are, to use an expressive word, miscellaneously jumbled. Hence, if we go back to the nebulous ring, there presents itself the question,—How came each planetoid-forming portion of nebulous matter, when it gathered itself together and separated, to have a motion round the Sun differing so much from the motions of its neighbours in eccentricity and inclination? And there presents itself the further question,—How, during the time when it was concentrating into a planetoid, did it manage to jostle its way through all the differently-moving like masses of nebulous matter, and yet to preserve its individuality? Answers to these questions are, it seems to me, not even imaginable.
Turn we now to the alternative hypothesis. During revision of the foregoing essay, in preparation for that edition of the volume containing it which was published in 1883, there occurred the thought that some light on the origin of the planetoids ought to be obtained by study of their distributions and movements. If, as Olbers supposed, they resulted from the bursting of a planet once revolving in the region they occupy, the implications are:—first, that the fragments must be most abundant in the space immediately about the original orbit, and less abundant far away from it; second, that the large fragments must be relatively few, while of smaller fragments the numbers will increase as the sizes decrease; third, that as some among the smaller fragments will be propelled further than any of the larger, the widest deviations in mean distance from the mean distance from the mean distance of the original planet, will be presented by the smallest members of the assemblage; and fourth, that the orbits differing most from the rest in eccentricity and in inclination, will be among those of these smallest members. In the fourth edition of Chambers’s Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy (the first volume of which has just been issued) there is a list of the elements (extracted and adapted from the Berliner Astronomisches Juhrbuch for 1890) of all the small planets (281 in number) which had been discovered up to the end of 1888. The apparent brightness, as expressed in equivalent star-magnitudes, is the only index we have to the probable comparative sizes of by far the largest number of the planetoids: the exceptions being among those first discovered. Thus much premised, let us take the above points in order. (1) There is a region lying between 2·50 and 2·80 (in terms of the Earth’s mean distance from the Sun) where the planetoids are found in maximum abundance. The mean between these extremes, 2.65, is nearly the same as the average of the distances of the four largest and earliest-known of these bodies, which amounts to 2·64. May we not say that the thick clustering about this distance (which is, however, rather less than that assigned for the original planet by Bode’s empirical law), in contrast with the wide scattering of the comparatively few whose distances are little more than 2 or exceed 3, is a fact in accordance with the hypothesis in question?∗ (2) Any table which gives the apparent magnitudes of the planetoids, shows at once how much the number of the smaller members of the assemblage exceeds that of those which are comparatively large; and every succeeding year has emphasized this contrast more strongly. Only one of them (Vesta) exceeds in brightness the seventh star-magnitude, while one other (Ceres) is between the seventh and eighth, and a third (Pallas) is above the eighth; but between the eighth and ninth there are six; between the ninth and tenth, twenty; between the tenth and eleventh, fifty-five; below the eleventh a much larger number is known, and the number existing is probably far greater,—a conclusion we cannot doubt when the difficulty of finding the very faint members of the family, visible only in the largest telescopes, is considered. (3) Kindred evidence is furnished if we broadly contrast their mean distances. Out of the 13 largest planetoids whose apparent brightnesses exceed that of a star of the 9·5 magnitude, there is not one having a mean distance that exceeds 3. Of those having magnitudes at least 9·5 and smaller than 10, there are 15; and of these one only has a mean distance greater than 3. Of those between 10 and 10·5 there are 17; and of these also there is one exceeding 3 in mean distance. In the next group there are 37, and of these 5 have this great mean distance. The next group, 48, contains 12 such; the next, 47, contains 13 such. Of those of the twelfth magnitude and fainter, 72 planetoids have been discovered, and of those of them of which the orbits have been computed, no fewer than 23 have a mean distance exceeding 3 in terms of the Earth’s. It is evident from this how comparatively erratic are the fainter members of the extensive family with which we are dealing. (4) To illustrate the next point, it may be noted that among the planetoids whose sizes have been approximately measured, the orbits of the two largest, Vesta and Ceres, have eccentricities falling between ·05 and ·10, whilst the orbits of the two smallest, Menippe and Eva, have eccentricities falling between ·20 and ·25, and between ·30 and ·35. And then among those more recently discovered, having diameters so small that measurement of them has not been practicable, come the extremely erratic ones,—Hilda and Thule, which have mean distances of 3·97 and 4·25 respectively; Æthra, having an orbit so eccentric that it cuts the orbit of Mars; and Medusa, which has the smallest mean distance from the Sun of any. (5) If the average eccentricities of the orbits of the planetoids grouped according to their decreasing sizes are compared, no very definite results are disclosed, excepting this, that the eight Polyhymnia, Atalanta, Eurydice, Æthra, Eva, Andromache, Istria, and Eudora, which have the greatest eccentricities (falling between ·30 and ·38), are all among those of smallest star-magnitudes. Nor when we consider the inclinations of the orbits do we meet with obvious verifications; since the proportion of highly-inclined orbits among the smaller planetoids does not appear to be greater than among the others. But consideration shows that there are two ways in which these last comparisons are vitiated. One is that the inclinations are measured from the plane of the ecliptic, instead of being measured from the plane of the orbit of the hypothetical planet. The other, and more important one, is that the search for planetoids has naturally been carried on in that comparatively narrow zone within which most of their orbits fall; and that, consequently, those having the most highly-inclined orbits are the least likely to have been detected, especially if they are at the same time among the smallest. Moreover, considering the general relation between the inclination of planetoid orbits and their eccentricities, it is probable that among the orbits of these undetected planetoids are many of the most eccentric. But while recognizing the incompleteness of the evidence, it seems to me that it goes far to justify the hypothesis of Olbers, and is quite incongruous with that of Laplace. And as having the same meanings let me not omit the remarkable fact concerning the planetoids discovered by D’Arrest, that “if their orbits are figured under the form of material rings, these rings will be found so entangled, that it would be possible, by means of one among them taken at hazard, to lift up all the rest,”—a fact incongruous with Laplace’s hypothesis, which implies an approximate concentricity, but quite congruous with the hypothesis of an exploded planet.
Next to be considered come phenomena, the bearings of which on the question before us are scarcely considered—I mean those presented by meteors and shooting stars. The natures and distributions of these harmonize with the hypothesis of an exploded planet, and I think with no other hypothesis. The theory of volcanic origin, joined with the remark that the Sun emits jets which might propel them with adequate velocities, seems quite untenable. Such meteoric bodies as have descended to us, forbid absolutely the supposition of solar origin. Nor can they rationally be ascribed to planetary volcanoes. Even were their mineral characters appropriate, which many of them are not (for volcanoes do not eject iron), no planetary volcanoes could propel them with anything like the implied velocity—could no more withstand the tremendous force to be assumed, than could a card-board gun the force behind a rifle bullet. But that their mineral characters, various as they are, harmonize with the supposition that they were derived from the crust of a planet is manifest; and that the bursting of a planet might give to them, and to shooting stars, the needful velocities, is a reasonable conclusion. Along with those larger fragments of the crust constituting the known planetoids, varying from some 200 miles in diameter to little over a dozen, there would be sent out still more multitudinous portions of the crust, decreasing in size as they increased in number. And while there would thus result such masses as occasionally fall through the Earth’s atmosphere to its surface, there would, in an accompanying process, be an adequate cause for the myriads of far smaller masses which, as shooting stars, are dissipated in passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Let us figure to ourselves, as well as we may, the process of explosion.
Assume that the diameter of the missing planet was 20,000 miles; that its solid crust was a thousand miles thick; that under this came a shell of molten metallic matter which was another thousand miles thick; and that the space, 16,000 miles in diameter, within this, was occupied by the equally dense mass of gases above the “critical point”, which, entering into a proto-chemical combination, caused the destroying explosion. The primary fissures in the crust must have been far apart—probably averaging distances between them as great as the thickness of the crust. Supposing them approximately equidistant, there would, in the equatorial periphery, be between 60 and 70 fissures. By the time the primary fragments thus separated had been heaved a mile outwards, the fissures formed would severally have, at the surface, a width of 170 odd yards. Of course these great masses, as soon as they moved, would themselves begin to fall in pieces; especially at their bounding surfaces. But passing over the resulting complications, we see that when the masses had been propelled 10 miles outwards, the fissures between them would be each a mile wide. Notwithstanding the enormous forces at work, an appreciable interval would elapse before these vast portions of the crust could be put in motion with any considerable velocities. Perhaps the estimate will be under the mark if we assume that it took 10 seconds to propel them through the first mile, and that, by implication, at the end of 20 seconds they had travelled 4 miles, and at the end of 30 seconds 9 miles. Supposing this granted, let us ask what would be taking place in each intervening fissure a thousand miles deep, which, in the space of half a minute, had opened out to nearly a mile wide, and in the subsequent half minute to a chasm approaching 3 miles in width. There would first be propelled through it enormous jets of the molten metals composing the internal liquid shell; and these would part into relatively small masses as they were shot into space. Presently, as the chasm opened to some miles in width, the molten metals would begin to be followed by the equally dense gaseous matter behind, and the two would rush out together. Soon the gases, predominating, would carry with them the portions of the liquid shell continually collapsing; until the blast became one filled with millions of small masses, billions of smaller masses, and trillions of drops. These would be driven into space in a stream, the emission of which would continue for many seconds or even several minutes. Remembering the rate of motion of the jets emitted from the solar surface, and supposing that the blasts produced by this explosion reached only one-tenth of that rate, these myriads of small masses and drops would be propelled with planetary velocities, and in approximately the same direction. I say approximately, because they would be made to deviate somewhat by the friction and irregularities of the chasm passed through, and also by the rotation of the planet. Observe, however, that though they would all have immense velocities, their velocities would not be equal. During its earlier stages the blast would be considerably retarded by the resistance which the sides of its channel offered. When this became relatively small the velocity of the blast would reach its maximum; from which it would decline when the space for emission became very wide, and the pressure behind consequently less. Hence these almost infinitely numerous particles of planet-spray, as we might call it, as well as those formed by the condensation of the metallic vapours accompanying them, would forthwith begin to part company: some going rapidly in advance, and others falling behind; until the stream of them, perpetually elongating, formed an orbit round the Sun, or rather an assemblage of innumerable orbits, separating widely at aphelion and perihelion, but approximating midway, where they might fall within a space of, say, some two millions of miles, as do the orbits of the November meteors. At a later stage of the explosion, when the large masses, having moved far outwards, had also fallen to pieces of every size, from that of Vesta to that of an aerolite, and when the channels just described had ceased to exist, the contents of the planet would disperse themselves with lower velocities and without any unity of direction. Hence we see causes alike for the streams of shooting stars, for the solitary shooting stars visible to the naked eye, and for the telescopic shooting stars a score times more numerous.
Further significant evidence is furnished by the comets of short periods. Of the thirteen constituting this group, twelve have orbits falling between those of Mars and Jupiter: one only having its aphelion beyond the orbit of Jupiter. That is to say, nearly all of them frequent the same region as the planetoids. By implication, they are similarly associated in respect of their periods. The periods of the planetoids range from 3.1 to 8.8 years; and all these twelve comets have periods falling between these extremes: the least being 3.29 and the greatest 8.86. Once more this family of comets, like the planetoids in the zone they occupy and like them in their periods, are like them also in the respect that, as Mr. Lynn has pointed out, their motions are all direct. How happens this close kinship—how happens there to be this family of comets so much like the planetoids and so much like one another, but so unlike comets at large? The obvious suggestion is that they are among the products of the explosion which originated the planetoids, the aerolites, and the streams of meteors; and consideration of the probable circumstances shows us that such products might be expected. If the hypothetical planet was like its neighbour Jupiter in having an atmosphere, or like its neighbour Mars in having water on its surface, or like both in these respects; then these superficial masses of liquid, of vapour, and of gas, blown into space along with the solid matters, would yield the materials for comets. There would result, too, comets unlike one another in constitution. If a fissure opened beneath one of the seas, the molten metals and metallic gases rushing through it as above described, would decompose part of the water carried with them; and the oxygen and hydrogen liberated would be mingled with undecomposed vapour. In other cases, portions of the atmosphere might be propelled, probably with portions of vapour; and in yet other cases masses of water alone. Severally subject to great heat at perihelion, these would behave more or less differently. Once more, it would ordinarily happen that detached swarms of meteors projected as implied, would carry with them masses of vapours and gases; whence would result the cometic constitution now insisted on. And sometimes there would be like accompaniments to meteoric streams.
See, then, the contrast between the two hypotheses. That of Laplace, looking probable while there were only four planetoids, but decreasing in apparent likelihood as the planetoids increase in number, until, as they pass through the hundreds on their way to the thousands, it becomes obviously improbable, is, at the same time, otherwise objectionable. It pre-supposes a nebulous ring of a width so enormous that it would have overlapped the ring of Mars. This ring would have had differences between the angular velocities of its parts quite inconsistent with the Nebular Hypothesis. The average eccentricities of the orbits of its parts must have differed greatly from those of adjacent orbits; and the average inclinations of the orbits of its parts must similarly have differed greatly from those of adjacent orbits. Once more, the orbits of its parts, confusedly interspersed, must have had varieties of eccentricity and inclination unaccountable in portions of the same nebulous ring; and, during concentration into planetoids, each must have had to maintain its course while struggling through the assemblage of other small nebulous masses, severally moving in ways unlike its own. On the other hand, the hypothesis of an exploded planet is supported by every increase in the number of planetoids discovered; by the greater numbers of the smaller sizes; by the thicker clustering near the inferred place of the missing planet; by the occurrence of the greatest mean distances among the smallest members of the assemblage; by the occurrence of the greatest eccentricities in the orbits of these smallest members; and by the entanglement of all the orbits. Further support for the hypothesis is yielded by aerolites, so various in their kinds, but all suggestive of a planet’s crust; by the streams of shooting stars having their radiant points variously placed in the heavens; and also by the solitary shooting stars visible to the naked eye, and the more numerous ones visible through telescopes. Once more, it harmonizes with the discovery of a family of comets, twelve out of thirteen of which have mean distances falling within the zone of the planetoids, have similarly associated periods, have all the same direct motions, and are connected with swarms of meteors and with meteoric streams. May we not, indeed, say, that if there once existed a planet between Mars and Jupiter which burst, the explosion must have produced just such clusters of bodies and classes of phenomena as we actually find?
And what is the objection? Merely that if such an explosion occurred it must have occurred many millions of years ago—an objection which is in fact no objection; for the supposition that the explosion occurred many millions of years ago is just as reasonable as the supposition that it occurred recently.
It is, indeed, further objected that some of the resulting fragments ought to have retrograde motions. It turns out on calculation, however, that this is not the case. Assuming as true the velocity which Lagrange estimated would have sufficed to give the four chief planetoids the positions they occupy, it results that such a velocity, given to the fragments which were propelled backwards by the explosion, would not have given them retrograde motions, but would simply have reduced their direct motions from something over 11 miles per second to about 6 miles per second. It is, however, manifest that this reduction of velocity would have necessitated the formation of highly-elliptic orbits—more elliptic than any of those at present known. This seems to me the most serious difficulty which has presented itself. Still, considering that there remain probably an immense number of planetoids to be discovered, it is quite possible that among these there may be some having orbits answering to the requirement.
Note V. Shortly before I commenced the revision of the foregoing essay, friends on two occasions named to me some remarkable photographs of nebulæ recently obtained by Mr. Isaac Roberts, and exhibited at the Royal Astronomical Society: saying that they presented appearances such as might have been sketched by Laplace in illustration of his hypothesis. Mr. Roberts has been kind enough to send me copies of the photographs in question and sundry others illustrative of stellar evolution. Those representing the Great Nebulæ in Andromeda and Canum Venaticorum as well as 81 Messier are at once impressive and instructive—illustrating as they do the genesis of nebulous rings round a central mass.
I may remark, however, that they seem to suggest the need for some modification of the current conception; since they make it tolerably clear that the process is a much less uniform one than is supposed. The usual idea is that a vast rotating nebulous spheroid arises before there are produced any of the planet-forming rings. But both of these photographs apparently imply that, in some cases at any rate, the portions of nebulous matter composing the rings take shape before they reach the central mass. It looks as though these partially-formed annuli must be prevented by their acquired motions from approaching even very near to the still-irregular body they surround.
Be this as it may, however, and be the dimensions of the incipient systems what they may (and it would seem to be a necessary implication that they are vastly larger than our Solar System), the process remains essentially the same. Practically demonstrated as this process now is, we may say that the doctrine of nebular genesis passes from the region of hypothesis into the region of established truth.
the constitution of the sun.
[First published in The Reader for February 25, 1865. 1 reproduce this essay chiefly to give a place to the speculation concerning the solar spots which forms the latter portion of it.]
The hypothesis of M. Faye, described in your numbers for January 28 and February 4, respectively, is to a considerable extent coincident with one which I ventured to suggest in an article on “Recent Astronomy and the Nebular Hypothesis,” published in the Westminster Review for July, 1858. In considering the possible causes of the immense differences of specific gravity among the planets, I was led to question the validity of the tacit assumption that each planet consists of solid or liquid matter from centre to surface. It seemed to me that any other internal structure which was mechanically stable, might be assumed with equal legitimacy. And the hypothesis of a solid or liquid shell, having its cavity filled with gaseous matter at high pressure and temperature [and of great density], was one which seemed worth considering.
Hence arose the inquiry—What structure will result from the process of nebular condensation? [Here followed a long speculation respecting the processes going on in a concentrating nebulous spheroid; the general outcome of which is implied in Note III of the foregoing essay. I do not reproduce it because, not having the guidance of Prof. Andrew’s researches, I had concluded that the formation of a molten shell would occur universally, instead of occasionally, as is now argued in the note named. The essay then proceeded thus:—]
The process of condensation being in its essentials the same for all concentrating nebular spheroids, planetary or solar, it was argued that the Sun is still passing through that incandescent stage which all the planets have long ago passed through: his later aggregation, joined with the immensely greater ratio of his mass to his surface, involving comparative lateness of cooling. Supposing the sun to have reached the state of a molten shell, inclosing a gaseous nucleus, it was concluded that this molten shell, over radiating its heat, but ever acquiring fresh heat by further integration of the Sun’s mass, must be constantly kept up to that temperature at which its substance evaporates.
[Here followed part of the paragraph quoted in the preceding essay on p. 155; and there succeeded, in subsequent editions, a paragraph aiming to show that the inferred structure of the Sun’s interior was congruous with the low specific gravity of the Sun—a conclusion which, as indicated on p. 156, implies some very problematical assumptions respecting the natures of the unknown elements of the Sun. There then came this passage:—]
The conception of the Sun’s constitution thus set forth, is like that of M. Faye in so far as the successive changes, the resulting structures, and the ultimate state, are concerned; but unlike it in so far as the Sun is supposed to have reached a later stage of concentration. As I gather from your abstract of M. Faye’s paper [this referred to an article in The Reader], he considers the Sun to be at present a gaseous spheroid, having an envelope of metallic matters precipitated in the shape of luminous clouds, the local dispersions of which, caused by currents from within, appear to us as spots; and he looks forward to the future formation of a liquid film as an event that will soon be followed by extinction. Whereas the above hypothesis is that the liquid film already exists beneath the visible photosphere, and that extinction cannot result until, in the course of further aggregation, the gaseous nucleus has become so much reduced, and the shell so much thickened, that the escape of the heat generated is greatly retarded. . . . M. Faye’s hypothesis appears to be espoused by him, partly because it affords an explanation of the spots, which are considered as openings in the photosphere, exposing the comparatively non-luminous gases filling the interior. But if these interior gases are non-luminous from the absence of precipitated matter, must they not for the same reason be transparent? And if transparent, will not the light from the remote side of the photosphere seen through them, be nearly as bright as that of the side next to us? By as much as the intensely-heated gases of the interior are disabled by the dissociation of their molecules from giving off luminiferous undulations, by so much must they be disabled from absorbing the light transmitted through them. And if their great light-transmitting power is exactly complementary to their small light-emitting power, there seems no reason why the interior of the Sun, disclosed to us by openings in the photosphere, should not appear as bright as its exterior.
Take, on the other hand, the supposition that a more advanced state of concentration has been reached. A shell of molten metallic matter enclosing a gaseous nucleus still higher in temperature than itself, will be continually kept at the highest temperature consistent with its state of liquid aggregation. Unless we assume that simple radiation suffices to give off all the heat generated by progressing integration, we must conclude that the mass will be raised to that temperature at which part of its heat is absorbed in vaporizing its superficial parts. The atmosphere of metallic gases hence resulting, cannot continue to accumulate without reaching a height above the Sun’s surface, at which the cooling due to radiation and rarefaction will cause condensation into cloud—cannot, indeed, cease accumulating until the precipitation from the upper limit of the atmosphere balances the evaporation from its lower limit. This upper limit of the atmosphere of metallic gases, whence precipitation is perpetually taking place, will form the visible photosphere—partly giving off light of its own, partly letting through the more brilliant light of the incandescent mass below. This conclusion harmonizes with the appearances. Sir John Herschel, advocating though he does an antagonist hypothesis, gives a description of the Sun’s surface which agrees completely with the processes here supposed. He says:—
“There is nothing which represents so faithfully this appearance as the slow subsidence of some flocculent chemical precipitates in a transparent fluid, when viewed perpendicularly from above: so faithfully, indeed, that it is hardly possible not to be impressed with the idea of a luminous medium intermixed, but not confounded, with a transparent and non-luminous atmosphere, either floating as clouds in our air, or pervading it in vast sheets and columns like flame, or the streamers of our northern lights”.—Treatise on Astronomy. p. 208.
If the constitution of the Sun be that which is above inferred, it does not seem difficult to conceive still more specifically the production of these appearances. Everywhere throughout the atmosphere of metallic vapours which clothes the solar surface, there must be ascending and descending currents. The magnitude of these currents must obviously depend on the depth of this atmosphere. If it is shallow, the currents must be small; but if many thousands of miles deep, the currents may be wide enough to render visible to us the places at which they severally impinge on the limit of the atmosphere, and the places whence the descending currents commence. The top of an ascending current will be a space over which the thickness of condensed cloud is the least, and through which the greatest amount of light from beneath penetrates. The clouds perpetually formed at the top of such a current, will be perpetually thrust aside by the uncondensed gases from below them; and, growing while they are thrust aside, will collect in the spaces between the ascending currents, where there will result the greatest degree of opacity. Hence the mottled appearance—hence the “pores,” or dark interspaces, separating the light-giving spots.∗
Of the more special appearances which the photosphere presents, let us take first the faculæ. These are ascribed to waves in the photosphere; and the way in which such waves might produce an excess of light has been variously explained in conformity with various hypotheses. What would result from them in a photosphere constituted and conditioned as above supposed? Traversing a canopy of cloud, here thicker and there thinner, a wave would cause a disturbance very unlikely to leave the thin and thick parts without any change in their average permeability to light. There would probably be, at some parts of the wave, extensions in the areas of the light-transmitting clouds, resulting in the passage of more rays from below. Another phenomenon, less common but more striking, appears also to be in harmony with the hypothesis. I refer to those bright spots, of a brilliancy greater than that of the photosphere, which are sometimes observed. In the course of a physical process so vast and so active as that here supposed to be going on in the Sun, we may expect that concurrent causes will occasionally produce ascending currents much hotter than usual, or more voluminous, or both. One of these, on reaching the stratum of luminous and illuminated cloud forming the photosphere, will burst through it, dispersing and dissolving it, and ascending to a greater height before it begins itself to condense: meanwhile allowing to be seen, through its transparent mass, the incandescent molten shell of the sun’s body.
[The foregoing passages, to most of which I do not commit myself as more than possibilities, I republish chiefly as introductory to the following speculation, which, since it was propounded in 1865, has met with some acceptance.]
“But what of the spots commonly so called?” it will be asked. In the essay on the Nebular hypothesis, above quoted from, it was suggested that refraction of the light passing through the depressed centres of cyclones in this atmosphere of metallic gases, might possibly be the cause; but this, though defensible as a “true cause,” appeared on further consideration to be an inadequate cause. Keeping the question in mind, however, and still taking as a postulate the conclusion of Sir John Herschel, that the spots are in some way produced by cyclones, I was led, in the course of the year following the publication of the essay, to an hypothesis which seemed more satisfactory. This, which I named at the time to Prof. Tyndall, had a point in common with the one afterward published by Prof. Kirchhoff, in so far as it supposed cloud to be the cause of darkness; but differed in so far as it assigned the cause of such cloud. More pressing matters prevented me from developing the idea for some time; and, afterwards, I was deterred from including it in the revised edition of the essay, by its inconsistency with the “willow-leaf” doctrine, at that time dominant. The reasoning was as follows:— The central region of a cyclone must be a region of rarefaction, and, consequently, a region of refrigeration. In an atmosphere of metallic gases rising from a molten surface, and presently reaching a limit at which condensation takes place, the molecular state, especially toward its upper part, must be such that a moderate diminution of density, and fall of temperature, will cause precipitation. That is to say, the rarefied interior of a solar cyclone will be filled with cloud: condensation, instead of taking place only at the level of the photosphere, will here extend to a great depth below it, and over a wide area. What will be the characters of a cloud thus occupying the interior of a cyclone? It will have a rotatory motion; and this it has been seen to have. Being funnel-shaped, as analogy warrants us in assuming, its central parts will be much deeper than its peripheral parts, and therefore more opaque. This, too, corresponds with observation. Mr. Dawes has discovered that in the middle of the spot there is a blacker spot: just where there would exist a funnel-shaped prolongation of the cyclonic cloud down toward the Sun’s body, the darkness is greater than elsewhere. Moreover, there is furnished an adequate reason for the depression which one of these dark spaces exhibits. In a whirlwind, as in a whirlpool, the vortex will be below the general level, and all around, the surface of the medium will descend toward it. Hence a spot seen obliquely, as when carried toward the Sun’s limb, will have its umbra more and more hidden, while its penumbra still remains visible. Nor are we without some interpretation of the penumbra. If, as is implied by what has been said, the so-called “willow-leaves,” or “rice-grains,” are the tops of the currents ascending from the Sun’s body, what changes of appearance are they likely to undergo in the neighbourhood of a cyclone? For some distance round a cyclone there will be a drawing in of the superficial gases toward the vortex. All the luminous spaces of more transparent cloud forming the adjacent photosphere, will be changed in shape by these centripetal currents. They will be greatly elongated; and there will so be produced that “thatch”-like aspect which the penumbra presents.
[The explanation of the solar spots above suggested, which was originally propounded in opposition to that of M. Faye, was eventually adopted by him in place of his own. In the Comptes Rendus for 1867, Vol. LXIV., p. 404, he refers to the article in the Reader, partly reproduced above, and speaks of me as having been replied to in a previous note. Again in the Comptes Rendus for 1872, Vol. LXXV., p. 1664, he recognizes the inadequacy of his hypothesis, saying:—“Il est certain que l’objection de M. Spencer, reproduit et développée par M. Kirchoff, est fondée jusqu’à un certain point; l’intérieur des taches, si ce sont des lacunes dans la photosphère, doit être froid relativement. . . . Il est donc impossible qu’elles proviennent d’éruptions ascendantes.” He then proceeds to set forth the hypothesis that the spots are caused by the precipitation of vapour in the interiors of cyclones. But though, as above shown, he refers to the objection made in the foregoing essay to his original hypothesis, and recognizes its cogency, he does not say that the hypothesis which he thereupon substitutes is also to be found in the foregoing essay. Nor does he intimate this in the elaborate paper on the subject read before the French Association for the Advancement of Science, and published in the Revue Scientifique for the 24th March 1883. The result is that the hypothesis is now currently ascribed to him.∗
About four months before I had to revise this essay on “The Constitution of the Sun,” while staying near Pewsey, in Wiltshire, I was fortunate enough to witness a phenomenon which furnished, by analogy, a verification of the above hypothesis, and served more especially to elucidate one of the traits of solar spots, otherwise difficult to understand. It was at the close of August, when there had been a spell of very hot weather. A slight current of air from the West, moving along the line of the valley, had persisted through the day, which, up to 5 o’clock, had been cloudless, and, with the exception now to be named, remained cloudless. The exception was furnished by a strange-looking cloud almost directly overhead. Its central part was comparatively dense and structureless. Its peripheral part, or to speak strictly, the two-thirds of it which were nearest and most clearly visible, consisted of converging streaks of comparatively thin cloud. Possibly the third part on the remoter side was similarly constituted; but this I could not see. It did not occur to me at the time to think about its cause, though, had the question been raised, I should doubtless have concluded that as the sky still remained cloudless everywhere else, this precipitated mass of vapour must have resulted from a local eddy. In the space of perhaps half-an-hour, the gentle breeze had carried this cloud some miles to the East; and now its nature became obvious. That central part which, seen from underneath, seemed simply a dense, confused part, apparently no nearer than the rest, now, seen sideways, was obviously much lower than the rest and rudely funnel-shaped—nipple-shaped one might say; while the wide thin portion of cloud above it was disk-shaped: the converging streaks of cloud being now, in perspective, merged together. It thus became manifest that the cloud was produced by a feeble whirlwind, perhaps a quarter to half-a-mile in diameter. Further, the appearances made it clear that this feeble whirlwind was limited to the lower stratum of air: the stratum of air above it was not implicated in the cyclonic action. And then, lastly, there was the striking fact that the upper stratum, though not involved in the whirl, was, by its proximity to a region of diminished pressure, slightly rarified; and that its precipitated vapour was, by the draught set up towards the vortex below, drawn into converging streaks. Here, then, was an action analogous to that which, as above suggested, happens around a sun-spot, where the masses of illuminated vapour constituting the photosphere are drawn towards the vortex of the cyclone, and simultaneously elongated into striæ: so forming the penumbra. At the same time there was furnished an answer to the chief objection to the cyclonic theory of solar spots. For if, as here seen, a cyclone in a lower stratum may fail to communicate a vortical motion to the stratum above it, we may comprehend how, in a solar cyclone, the photosphere commonly fails to give any indication of the revolving currents below, and is only occasionally so entangled in these currents as itself to display a vortical motion.
Let me add that apart from the elucidations furnished by the phenomenon above described, the probabilities are greatly in favour of the cyclonic origin of the solar spots. That some of them exhibit clear marks of vortical motion is undeniable; and if this is so, the question arises—What is the degree of likelihood that there are two causes for spots? Considering that they have so many characters in common, it is extremely improbable that their common characters are in some cases the concomitants of vortical motion and in other cases the concomitants of a different kind of action. Recognizing this great improbability, even in the absence of a reconciliation between the apparently conflicting traits, it is, I think, clear that when, in the way above shown, we are enabled to understand how it happens that the vortical motion, not ordinarily implicating the photosphere, may consequently be in most cases unapparent, the reasons for accepting the cyclonic theory become almost conclusive.]
[∗]Cosmos. (Seventh Edition.) Vol. i. pp. 79, 80.
[∗]Since the publication of this essay the late Mr. R. A. Proctor has given various further reasons for the conclusion that the nebulæ belong to our own sidereal system. The opposite conclusion, contested throughout the foregoing section, has now been tacitly abandoned.
[†]Any objection made to the extreme tenuity this involves, is met by the calculation of Newton, who proved that were a spherical inch of air removed four thousand miles from the Earth, it would expand into a sphere more than filling the orbit of Saturn.
[∗]A reference may fitly be made here to a reason given by Mons. Babinet for rejection of the Nebular Hypothesis. He has calculated that taking the existing Sun, with its observed angular velocity, its substance, if expanded so as to fill the orbit of Neptune, would have nothing approaching the angular velocity which the time of revolution of that planet implies. The assumption he makes is inadmissible. He supposes that all parts of the nebulous spheroid when it filled Neptune’s orbit, had the same angular velocities. But the process of nebular condensation as indicated above, implies that the remoter flocculi of nebulous matter, later in reaching the central mass, and forming its peripheral portions, will acquire, during their longer journeys towards it, greater velocities. An inspection of one of the spiral nebulæ, as 51st or 99th Messier, at once shows that the outlying portions when they reach the nucleus, will form an equatorial belt moving round the common centre more rapidly than the rest. Thus the central parts will have small angular velocities, while there will be increasing angular velocities of parts increasingly remote from the centre. And while the density of the spheroid continues small, fluid friction will scarcely at all change these differences.
[∗]It is true that since this essay was written reasons have been given for concluding that comets consist of swarms of meteors enveloped in aeriform matter. Very possibly this is the constitution of the periodic comets which, approximating their orbits to the plane of the Solar System, form established parts of the System, and which, as will be hereafter indicated, have probably a quite different origin.
[∗]Though this rule fails at the periphery of the Solar System, yet it fails only where the axis of rotation, instead of being almost perpendicular to the orbit-plane, is very little inclined to it; and where, therefore, the forces tending to produce the congruity of motions were but little operative.
[∗]It is true that, as expressed by him, these propositions of Laplace are not all beyond dispute. An astronomer of the highest authority, who has favoured me with some criticisms on this essay, alleges that instead of a nebulous ring rupturing at one point, and collapsing into a single mass, “all probability would be in favour of its breaking up into many masses.” This alternative result certainly seems the more likely. But granting that a nebulous ring would break up into many masses, it may still be contended that, since the chances are infinity to one against these being of equal sizes and equidistant, they could not remain evenly distributed round their orbit. This annular chain of gaseous masses would break up into groups of masses; these groups would eventually aggregate into larger groups; and the final result would be the formation of a single mass. I have put the question to an astronomer scarcely second in authority to the one above referred to, and he agrees that this would probably be the process.
[∗]The comparative statement here given differs, slightly in most cases and in one case largely, from the statement included in this essay as originally published in 1858. As then given the table ran thus:—
[∗]Since this paragraph was first published, the discovery that Mars has two satellites revolving round him in periods shorter than that of his rotation, has shown that the implication on which Laplace here insists is general only, and not absolute. Were it a necessary assumption that all parts of a concentrating nebulous spheroid revolve with the same angular velocities, the exception would appear an inexplicable one; but if, as suggested in a preceding section, it is inferable from the process of formation of a nebulous spheroid, that its outer strata will move round the general axis with higher angular velocities than the inner ones, there follows a possible interpretation. Though, during the earlier stages of concentration, while the nebulous matter, and especially its peripheral portions, are very rare, the effects of fluid-friction will be too small to change greatly such differences of angular velocities as exist; yet, when concentration has reached its last stages, and the matter is passing from the gaseous into the liquid and solid states, and when also the convection-currents have become common to the whole mass (which they probably at first are not), the angular velocity of the peripheral portion will gradually be assimilated to that of the interior; and it becomes comprehensible that in the case of Mars the peripheral portion, more and more dragged back by the internal mass, lost part of its velocity during the interval between the formation of the innermost satellite and the arrival at the final form.
[∗]I was about to suppress part of the above paragraph, written before the science of solar physics had taken shape, because of certain physical difficulties which stand in the way of its argument, when, on looking into recent astronomical works, I found that the hypothesis it sets forth respecting the Sun’s structure has kinships to the several hypotheses since set forth by Zollner, Faye, and Young. I have therefore decided to let it stand as it originally did.
[∗]Of course there remains the question whether, before the stage here recognized, there had already been produced a high temperature by those collisions of celestial masses which reduced the matter to a nebulous form. As suggested in First Principles (§ 136 in the edition of 1862, and § 182 in subsequent editions), there must, after there have been effected all those minor dissolutions which follow evolutions, remain to be effected the dissolutions of the great bodies in and on which the minor evolutions and dissolutions have taken place; and it was argued that such dissolutions will be, at some time or other, effected by those immense transformations of molar motion into molecular motion, consequent on collisions: the argument being based on the statement of Sir John Herschel, that in clusters of stars collisions must inevitably occur. It may, however, be objected that though such a result may be reasonably looked for in closely aggregated assemblages of stars, it is difficult to conceive of its taking place throughout our Sidereal System at large, the members of which, and their intervals, may be roughly figured as pins-heads 50 miles apart. It would seem that something like an eternity must elapse before, by ethereal resistance or other cause, these can be brought into proximity great enough to make collisions probable.
[∗]The two sentences which, in the text, precede the asterisk, I have introduced while these pages are standing in type: being led to do so by the perusal of some notes kindly lent to me by Prof. Dewar, containing the outline of a lecture he gave at the Royal Institution during the session of 1880. Discussing the conditions under which, if “our so-called elements are compounded of elemental matter”, they may have been formed, Prof. Dewar, arguing from the known habitudes of compound substances, concludes that the formation is in each case a function of pressure, temperature, and nature of the environing gases.
[∗]At the date of this passage the established teleology made it seem needful to assume that all the planets are habitable, and that even beneath the photosphere of the Sun there exists a dark body which may be the scene of life; but since then, the influence of teleology has so far diminished that this hypothesis can no longer be called the current one.
[∗]It may here be mentioned (though the principal significance of this comes under the next head) that the average mean distance of the later-discovered planetoids is somewhat greater than that of these earlier-discovered; amounting to 2·61 for Nos. 1 to 35 and 2·80 for Nos. 211 to 245. For this observation I am indebted to Mr. Lynn; whose attention was drawn to it while revising for me the statements contained in this paragraph, so as to include discoveries made since the paragraph was written.
[∗]If the “rice-grain” appearance is thus produced by the tops of the ascending currents (and M. Faye accepts this interpretation), then I think it excludes M. Faye’s hypothesis that the Sun is gaseous throughout. The comparative smallness of the light-giving spots and their comparative uniformity of size, show us that they have ascended through a stratum of but moderate depth (say 10,000 miles), and that this stratum has a definite lower limit. This favours the hypothesis of a molten shell.
[∗]I should add that while M. Faye ascribes solar spots to clouds formed within cyclones, we differ concerning the nature of the cloud. I have argued that it is formed by rarefaction, and consequent refrigeration, of the metallic gases constituting the stratum in which the cyclone exists. He argues that it is formed within the mass of cooled hydrogen drawn from the chromosphere into the vortex of the cyclone. Speaking of the cyclones he says:—“Dans leur embouchure évasée ils entraîneront l’hydrogeène froid de la chromosphère, produisant partout sur leur trajet vertical un abaissement notable de température et une obscurité relative, due à l’opacité de l’hydrogène froid englouti.” (Revue Scientifique, 24 March 1883.) Considering the intense cold required to reduce hydrogen to the “critical point,” it is a strong supposition that the motion given to it by fluid friction on entering the vortex of the cyclone, can produce a rotation, rarefaction, and cooling, great enough to produce precipitation in a region so intensely heated.