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pendently. The value we now use was found by W. Struve from prime-vertical observations, and is apparently very accurate ; but no astronomical constant should depend on the work of a single astronomer with a single instrument, when it can be determined so easily and by other methods. The old method of finding the value of this constant from the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites may yet give us a trustworthy value. The value of the other constant necessary for the reduction of observations, that of nutation, must be nearly that found by Peters in his well-known investigation of this question. This value may be verified by a new series of observations of Polaris, or of the declinations of stars situated so that this constant has its full influence on the reductions.

There are many subjects in astronomy that need investigation, but in most cases the labor required is very great, and the completion of the work would occupy a long time. This follows of course from the fact that, with the refinement of observations and their exact reduction, many small terms must be considered which formerly could be neglected. The lunar theory has been a vexed question for the last two centuries, and may remain so for a long time to come.

This will no doubt be the case until some able astronomer, with the will and perseverance of Delaunay, shall undertake its complete revision. This question should now be looked on as a purely scientific one, and its definite solution should be undertaken. The theory should not be patched up by guesswork to fit the observations, but should be carried out with the utmost rigor. This is a problem to which a young and able mathematician may well devote his life, and we must expect its solution from some such clear-headed devotee of science. Several of the planetary theories need a new investigation, and some of them are already in the hands of able astronomers. That of Mercury is especially interesting in connection with the intra-Mercurial planets, and it is to be hoped that Leverrier's theory of this planet may soon have a careful revision.

Again, among the secondary systems, the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn offer many interesting questions to the astronomer. At present the satellites of Jupiter demand a more complete theory, and new tables of their motions. Corrected elements of these satellites may be required for reducing observations of their eclipses, and for deriving a new value of the constant of aberration. These satellites form a peculiar and interesting system, and their theory is so com

plicated that the labor of correcting their elements and forming new tables would be great, but still within the power of a persevering astronomer. The recent discovery of the connection of comets with streams of meteors has given additional interest to cometary astronomy, and there is plenty of hard work to be done in reducing observations, in computing perturbations, and in deducing the best orbits of the comets. The periodical comets have another interest, since they may give us information concerning the matter filling space. It seems to be probable from different reasons, such as the consideration of the light of the stars, that there must be matter spread throughout the celestial spaces; but the only heavenly body that has directly given us information on this subject is Encke's comet, which has a period of 3} years. For a long time the motion of this comet was very completely computed by Encke, whose calculations show very strong proof of a resisting medium. These calculations were continued by Von Asten, whose early death prevented him from finishing his work, and the theory of this comet is left in an unsatisfactory condition. It is very desirable that the motion of this comet should be completely investigated, and although the method of the special perturbations of the elements followed by Encke is probably the best that can be used, still in such a case it would be well to apply various methods. Here again, on account of the frequent returns of the comet, the labor of computation is very great, and probably would be enough fully to occupy the time of one astronomer. The interesting questions connected with the motion of this comet ought to induce some one to undertake this laborious work, and these questions are so important that two or three astronomers might well be employed on its theory

The methods of astronomy have now become so well established, that the future advancement of the science is assured, especially since long intervals of time give an increased value to observations. Yet we may hope for improvement in instruments, for the introduction of new methods of observing, for better trained and more efficient astronomers; and perhaps also the rapid advancement of the physical sciences may furnishi us with new and more powerful methods of investigation. There is an intimate relation between the instrument-maker and the astronomer, and they should understand each other better than is generally the case. It may seem a small matter that the divisions of a circle, or of a scale, should not be too finely or too coarsely cut; that the reading scale should not be placed in an

inconvenient position, and that the illumination of the instrument should be carefully studied, and brought under the control of the astronomer; but these are really essential points, and, if not rightly arranged, are certain to weary the observer and to impair the quality of his work. Such mistakes will not be remedied until the makers better understand the uses of an astronomical instrument, and have correct ideas of the ends to be attained. Since our American opticians have placed themselves at the head of their craft, we may hope that our instrument-makers will do likewise, and that they will soon be able to furnish us with the best instruments of precision.

There is one point to which astronomers should give more attention, and from which we may reasonably hope that great advantages to astronomy may come; and that is to the selection of sites for new observatories. It is possible, perhaps probable, that our instruments may be greatly enlarged and improved, and that important discoveries and improvements in the manufacture of optical glass may be made; but it seems certain that we have within easy reach very decided advantages for astroncmical work by the choice of better positions for our instruments. Very few American obserratories have been established for the purpose of doing scientific work, or with much thought or care for their future condition ; but generally they are built in connection with some college or academy, and are the product of local and temporary enthusiasm, which builds an observatory, equips it with instruments, and then leaves it helpless. The atmosphere that surrounds us, and its sudden changes of temperature, are the great obstacles to the good performance of a telescope; and the larger the instrument, and the higher the magnifying power, the more serious are these hindrances. Now, with our present means of travel, we can easily place our instruments at an altitude of eight or ten thousand feet, and above a large part of the atmosphere. In this way we may be able to do with small instruments what at common altitudes can be done only with large ones; and when possible it is always better to use small instruments, since they are more easily handled, and are relatively stronger and better than large ones. Uniformity of temperature may be secured by seeking locations in the tropical islands, or on coasts like that of California, where the ocean winds keep the temperature nearly uniform throughout the year. At great altitudes we may secure a clearness of vision that would be of the greatest value in the examination of faint objects, and by this means, and by persevering and

continuous observation, interesting discoveries may be made. It is a matter of course that, except in the case of comets, the future discoveries in astronomy will belong to faint and delicate objects; but these are interesting, and should not be neglected. A uniform temperature, which secures good definition, and steady images of the stars, is necessary for accurate determinations of position, and for all measurements of precision. This condition is especially important in such work as that of stellar parallax, the determination of the constant of aberration, and wherever the yearly change of temperature may act injuriously. In the selection of better sites for observatories, I think we have an easy means of advancing astronomy.

As this science grows and expands, it will become more and more necessary to study the economy of its work, in order that astronomers may bestow their labors in the most advantageous methods, and may rid themselves of all cumbersome and time-consuming processes. The manner of publishing observations has already been much abbreviated, and improved I think, by some of the European astronomers, and this change seems destined to become universal. As the positions of many objects are now well known, the need of printing all the details of the observation, such as the transits of the wires, the readings of the micrometers, etc., is very slight; and this printing may be safely abandoned. Even this change will lead to a great saving in the time and cost of printing. But this will necessitate a more complete discussion of the work, and a more careful examination of the instruments; things to be desired, since they tend to lift the observer out of his routine, and make him a master of his business. There are objections to this change, and some of them are real, such as the importance of publishing a complete record; but this is overestimated, I think, since the original records ought always to be referred to in case of doubt ; and other objections are factitious, such as the need of publishing a large and showy book in order to impose on the public.

We may hope also for improvements in theoretical astronomy, and for the better training and preparation of students of this science. I know that it is sometimes said that theoretical astronomy is finished, and that nothing more can be done. Such assertions come from professors who are old and weary, or from those young men who tire out early in life; but they are wrong. The improvements that Hansen has made in the theory of perturbations,

and Poinsot's study of the theory of rotation, show what careful investigation may do, and assure us of further progress. It must be confessed that some of the astronomical work done in our country bears evidence that the astronomers did not understand the correct methods of reduction, and much of it shows evidence of hasty and ill-considered plans. This is perhaps a natural condition for beginners, but we trust that it has been outgrown. An actual need for the astronomical students of our country is a good book on theoretical astronomy, similar to Pontécoulant's work, in which the whole subject shall be presented in a complete form, such as we find in the Mécanique Céleste, together with an account of the improvements made by Gauss, Poisson, Hansen, and others. There is no American book of this kind, and the English works are too partial, designed apparently to fit the student for college examinations, and not to give him a complete knowledge of the science. Such a book has hardly been attempted in our language, unless that of Woodhouse may be an exception, and it may be a long time in coming, since it requires a man qualified to do the work, and will involve an expense of labor in the preparation, and of cost in publishing, such as few are willing to incur. In the mean time it is far better for the student to go directly to the writings of Lagrange and Laplace, of Gauss and Poisson and other masters, rather than to spend time in reading second-rate authors who endeavor to explain them. And generally this will be found the easier way also, since the student avoids the confused notions and symbols, and the grotesque expressions and egotism of small men, and is lifted into the region of ideas and invention.

In presenting his exposition of the nebular hypothesis, which has since become so celebrated, Laplace says: “I present this hypothesis with the distrust which everything ought to inspire that is not a result of observation or of calculation.” It is a singular fact that, among all the writings on the nebular hypothesis, I have never seen a reference to this presentation of it by its most distinguished advocate ; and yet this is the true spirit of scientific astronomy. Laplace did not wish to exempt his own theories from criticism, and neither should any one. In astronomy there is no final human authority, no synod or council, but simply an appeal to reason and observation. If a theory or a discovery be true, it will stand the test of observation and of calculation ; if false, it must pass away to that Miltonian limbo where so many things have gone and are A. A. A. S., VOL. XXIX.


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