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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 28, 1909, Image 5

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Tiic San urancisco Sunday Call
WHEELING THROUGH
THE TAIL OF A COMET
EDMUND HALLEY
O.NCE more Halley's famous comet has been
seen through the great .40 inch refractor at
the Yerkes observatory by Prof. E. E. Bar
nard exactly a month from, the time he.
obtained his first glimpse of the celestial
wanderer after its absence of 74 jxars. His observa
tions were made on October 17 and 19, but apparently
the comet is gaining in brilliancy, for it was also
observed on the morning of October 17 by Professor
Wendell of the Harvard observatory with the 15
inch equatorial and by L. Campbell with the 24 inch
reflector of the same observatory. It will doubtless
soon come within range of smaller telescopes and
be visible to the unaided eye in the spring.
As the comet draws nearer to the earth a vague
feeling of alarm maj' be felt by those who regard
these celestial visitants. with superstitious awe. For
them mystery still clings around
"The blazing star,
Threat'ning the world with famine, plague and war;
To princes death; to kingdoms many curses;
% To all estates inevitable losses:
To herdsmen rot; to ploughmen hapless seasons;
To sailors storms; to cities civil treasons."
The comet of 1066, one of the earlier returns of
Halley's comet, was regarded as a presage of the
downfall of Harold of England at the battle of
Hastings. In the Bayeux tapestry, on which Matilda
of Flanders had drawn all the most memorable
episodes in the e%entful career of her husband, Wil
liam the Conqueror, the comet appears in one of.the
corners with the inscription, "Isti Mirantur Stcllam,"
which proves that it was considered a veritable
marvel. It is said even to be traditionally reported
that one of the jewels of the British crown was taken
from the tail of this comet.
Although comets are, no longer regarded with
superstitious awe as in olden times, yet they are apt
to cause unnecessary alarm. For instance, . even in
our present enlightened day a letter was recently
inserted in the Observatory, addressed to the editor
by an alarmed Britisher, who feared the present
appearance -of Halley's comet might be an ill omen
in connection with the possible invasion of England
by the Germans. Some alarm has also been -aroused
by the statement that in all probability the earth will
pass through the train of the comet on the morning
of May 19. 1910, and that on that occasion the head
of the comet will be about only 12.000,000 or 13,000,
000 miles distant. v
Swept by Star Dust
According to the calculations of Frank- E. Sea gra%'e,
an astronomer of Providence, R. 1., he finds by com
putations as delicate as trigonometry and the microm
eter can make them that on May 19 the comet will
cross the plane of the earth's path. It is -likely that
the earth will be enveloped in the train of the comet
and for a short period- our planet may. be Swept by
star dust. - .. ' -
"There need be no scare over the approaching
event, however," Mr. Seagrave reassures us. "Noth
ing will happen. The end of the worl4 will not come.
It will be nothing more than we passed through on
June 3, 1861, when the earth cut ihrough the "comet
of that year. The nearest it could s ever come; to. the
earth would be 6,235,000 miles."
Regarding the actual experience concerning the"
comet of 1861 Sir Robert- S.- Ball recounts; it as fol
lows in his usual entertaining way: ~ ' \ '
"In. the year 1861 a fine comet- appeared. It is not
so well remembered at its merits deserve, because it
happened, unfortunately for its own renown, to
appear just three years after the celebrated comet of
1858, which was one of the most gorgeous; of its
kind in modern times. But in 1861 we had a novel
experience.
"On a Sunday evening in midsummer of that year
we dashed into 'the comet, or rather it dashed into
us. We were not, it; is true,- in 'collision with" its
densest part; it was only the end of the tail c which ;
we encountered. There/ were, fortunately, no very
disastrous consequences/ Indeed, -most of! us never
knew that anything: had. happened at 'all,' arid the rest/
only learned of the accident long; after it was all
over. For a couple of hours that night it wouldfseem
that we were actually in the tail of the comet,. but so
far as I know no one was injured or experienced any
alarming inconvenience. , Indeed, I have ( heafd l of only
one disaster arising from the collision. - A clergyman
' tells us that in -midsummer he was always able in
ordinary years to ; read his sermon without artificial".
[R ALLEY'S Wanderer of the Skies Is
the iE^h^WM^dfi^^f
Hext-Will Pass Thmgh [its' Train and Likely
Be 1 Swept M Star' Dust ' m \u25a0, \u25a0 \u2666 •
Passage of the Earth and|Moon Through the
; Train of a Comet June 30, 1861
Flammarion's -Popular Astronomy;"
Pewiissionof D. Appleton &Ca v
light. On this particular occasion, however, the sky
was overcast with a peculiar glow, while. the "<ordinary
light was so much interfered with that, the sexton
had to provide a pair of candles to enable' the clergy- .
man to read his sermon. The expense of those candles .
'was,, I believe; the only loss ;to. the earth in -.con-.,'
sequence of its. collision with the comet of-;l§61." \
Year of .Comets *
Nevertheless, despite oiir escape from harm in 1861
and the reassuring statements of such an authority as .
Prof. S. W. Burnham. of Yerkes; .observatp'ry,.- 'wh'o '\u25a0\u25a0
tells us we need not feel alarmed; for the. l comet
"is not going to hurt anybody on. this earth," yet in all
probability: there are 'many -who will doubtless cast ;
suspicious glances in its direction •when it is bright
enough to shine resplendent 'in the evening 'sky tieict
spring*, if not; sooner. At present it is no use:^trying
to see the celestial wanderqr except by means of ]a •
telescope, as it is too faint as.yet-to.be seen otherwise.
' As' it. draws nearer, however, r ; and /^increases in
brightness, adorning itself witH. a~ glittering train
when it approaches the neighborhood of .the sun,»it
will : prove" a source of keen delight to 'those who' can . ;
regard it from the true standpoitit of scientific kriowl- -
edge,, but to the.uninformedf it may doiibtlessV prove
truly alarming. ' (When, the comet appears* with its \u25a0' -
Ten million cubic miles of ;head,
- - •Ten billion, leagues, of- tall t . ... V
the first question the uninitikted will ; : probably [ask;,
will be, "What great calamity: does" thisineari?'-.;
The greater 'number of inquirers ; will :beV more'
occupied, however, with the physical effects likely- to. «
result than with the supernatural J form of the * appa- •
rition. : Do you; think we shall /nave a, cold br^dfy)
winter, or. must -we ; anticipate foggy ; weather, {rains
or inundations? it "announce; an: abundant har-j,
vest, as was remarked - in*, connection with; the ' cornet -
of 18U; resulting in .the- excellent quality of . the soV.
called "comet wine" of that year? '-\' :; ;
PROFESSOR BARNARD
Photo by Calvert Bros. ;i
Three Phases/ of ;HaHey;s /Cometh as TltAwpcafed in 1835
*(i.) As Viewed Through a Powerful Telcscopt in' October. 1835. From a
Drawing ; by the Astrbnomf r, Schwabe. ; (a.)/ As Setn by the Naked Eye Among :? \u25a0;• \u25a0
. the Stars of the Constellation Ophiuchus in October. 1835. From a Drawing by Sir
John HerscheL (3.) As It Appeared Throughthe Telescope in 1835. From.a
drawing by Sir John HerschcL
Of meteorological phenomena attributed to comets
-because l^ their causes- have remained\unknown>men
•.' tion must be made of dry fogs, such /^ s those of 1783,
1822, 1831 and 1834. Theappearancefqf this singular
phenomenon in 1783: accompanied: by : its dura
tion — for it was visible more than a month-^has/ been
accounted for.as resulting from the immersion of our
planet in a comet's train. ; .-; _\u25a0/. -.\u25a0•.'
It is not impossible for :Q,ur globe, as \ve. have seen,
to traverse \ theTgigan'tic. :\u25a0\u25a0 tr*ain's»"df ? certain . comets ; nor
to penetrate to a-certain ;depth the vaporous atmos
phere of some among them. , \u25a0 Apart from these en
: counters we may suppose that cometary matter may
< be introduced into bur 1 atmosphere by the power of
Pursuing its course in the same region as
( the', planets, projecting its y substance' far beyorid r its
Which:G/ ; J::l^e^Computcrj
at ?\u25a0' the' Ycrkcs? Obsery atory, •PHotograpecl:
Fh alley ' s 'Comet ; September. 16/ 17;- 24; and 26
own 'sphere- "of -attraction, ? a /cornet can scarcely fail
: to abandon fragmenti^of \u25a0 :ts tail; which -the- mass; of ;
the^ "earth; ff or j example, mayX afterwar'il '(appropriate.":
At;; any ; ; rate;| such was -the. J opinion /of- Aragq with
regard to the dry fog of 1783 : \u25a0 '
This fog had not the qualities -of. an ordinary fog:
l(;,wasuiot^damiv and! moist ' like •thc/clariirny/fogs/bf '
London.- |The> general ,cblor,; of <tHe* : air w.isithat^of'a
.dull, dirty .blue; distant . 'objects were; enveloped 3 infaj
\u25a0blue,\misty.;h^
.md is t i rigu i shfLble. The . ; sit n ~, ; \v it h out .bf il l ian c y 'ami
obscured; by.; mist; both at; its rising arid / setting, 8 could
Yerkes Obsereatory^ fronv^Professor. Barnard's ; House
be looked at with'out'dazzling .the- eyes at: noonday,
;r"A""singular; circumstance mentioned -by Arago in con-,
nection with^thisfog was fact that it .seemed to
possess a certain phosphoric property, a -light of its
own.*;; "I findj at .least in. the accounts, of some
-he remarks, "that it diffused, even at
midnight, a light fwhich they compared to. that of the
moon at its full and' which sufneed'to make-objects
- distiiictly at a distance of more than 200
rfyards.".; > - \u25a0
'The Dust and Ashes-.
Was the earth plunged in the tail of a comet \u25a0 'or
had; it /met with: the fragments of a cometary
appendage abandoned-in space? But why, then,. was
the comet itself not visible? Coy^ld the dust and
ashes projected to a distance and scattered far and
wide have been the cause of this 'phenomenon? Some
scientists: assumed, in order to explain -the. dry -fog
:of' 1783, tliat.it was caused by the diffusion of vol
canic cinders, .as in the more recent- case of. the
eruption of Krakatoa. in August, 1883. The descrip
tions of: extraordinary /optical phenomena, such.; as.
wonderful ruddy glows ; at sunset- and sunrise, pr.
strange; hues in which <the sun and' the moon were
-occasionally tinted,' were, collected 1-' fro- numerous
• placesall over; the world.
Everywhere remarkable \u25a0\u25a0 appearances^were noted -in.
the sky: that winter, from Lake Superior -to Tierra
del Fuego,- from the gulf of • Guinea to < China, from'
\u25a0Panama .to Australia.. Strange halos "were^ often.;
seen, occasionally blue ;b'r ; green moons, and : the sun
was glorified by a.corona that. had its origin in our
atmosphere.. Wherever there were inhabitants > with
sufficient intelligence to note the,' unusual r reports
were received, of . extraordinary. , manifestations "wit
nessed in. the 'heavens.
'When we reflect that an explosion' on. an insignifi
cant islet, in the straits-of Sunda". has sufficed to adorn
.the sunsets, of every country on earth, -what; may .we
riot expect: at; a result :oi[ our -passage 'for 'a .: short
period through tHe train of Hallcy's. comet? .Will 'it
be inthe nature of a peculiar glow" T in- the ; sky, as Jn
r the ;3'ear' lß6l, or a /rain of fire, celestial firework^ '
outrivaling the marvels recorded at- thomagnificent .
display of; meteors in the year 1833, ,w:hen: the shoot- -
ing stars were said to have fallen as thickly as' snow
flakes? .: '.•\u25a0\u25a0 •-'• \ , \u0084
h f According, to the^ephemeries of ;Halley's, comet, a§
calculated, by A." D: ..C. Cromriielin Smart,',,
the ; position .oi^ the comet on - May 19 will. : ,be
right :ascerision;6- hours ; 3oi minutesf, 16 seconds: and
• declination 13; degrees 38 minutes. -The comet; will ,
then vi be''in the neighborhood '- -of "the constellation- ;
Gemini,, and as the sun sets at*- 14 -minutes '\u25a0after; 7.
o'clock and, the cornet between 8:30 and -9 -o'clock the '
probability is that the splendor of' the cornet will fade
in the twilight. •There' will- be, however^ajfine opppr-^;
tunity to observe the comet, under, the most favorable -i
•conditions possible,; at -the total eclipse, of the;suri, ;
which takes Jplace.May 8, 1910. On, .that occasion,
when the bliriding glare. of tHe sun is hidden fora.few
moments t>y the dark globe of, the moon coming
between the sun and theearth, it ; may, be possible to. :
see Halley's comet /during totality.' ""If • so; it v should .
- provide- a magnificent /spectacle, for « this js : the rnost^
favorable of ; all; conditions for. seeing-a comet. '/ I 1
View of ; the Comet--. '
. What is the cause .of the. doubt;aboitt; this event? .
•It/ is due simply ; to . the fact ; that .the- track • of /eclipse \,
runs . across ; ;'the ocean arid * only touches ' J the; 'norther j
easternTextremity; of , -Tasmania.
','A hardy -mariner." to.,quote ; Prof. H..'
remarks- on the^subject ,in an -address -given ' before,/ -
the:' British/ Association' for the , .Advancement r.of »
Science at jts/riieeting ; at; Dublin on'/rFfiday, vSep- ,
terribe*r*4i 1908, \u25a0."who; slioujd' care; to take nip a. suit- '
able positibn;"ont;Ma'y;B, 1910/ and was. favored with (
: a .cloudless sky;y\vou!d;.be: sure ; - of ja ; magnificent view/.,
*qf,-the;cbmet:jdum ;
wishes to. -set, up: 3 n/inVirument on terra ;tirma' must '( (
/be;irivTasmanii, ! iirid there it ; seetns po^sihle that; the '
cornet may -ha ve-Sv-tbclo-.v hi> horizon before totality [\u25a0'*
• is?: re- 1-'; cl. ';'• ;v \u25a0'..-, " : : ../•...-.'. .^- '-.•\u25a0\u25a0•\u25a0]
;:?\u25a0; ." -;!css, thc~>pro.spcct is/so- fasefnating that :
/::,//'\u25a0\u25a0 : ':\u25a0\u25a0' ':\u25a0 -\u25a0/:-/\u25a0' '-::' \u25a0^\u25a0/:' 1 -: . ' --'\u25a0 .;\u25a0._:\u25a0 - 1 ./. .-/- ..
-the writer ;is now making arrangements to journey
to Tasmania next spring 'for the express purpose of
.witnessing this wondrous sight. Three times she
has been enabled 'to observe the marvelous glory of
the corona at the total" eclipses of the sun which
occurred; in 1896, 1900 and 1905, but to see HalleyV
comet near the sun on a similar occasion in all its
glory is simply* irresistible.
x -- According to- the ephemeris of A. D. C. Crom
melin and D. Smart the comet must be looked
for in* the constellation Taurus during the month
of November, this constellation being near the well
known "group of stars Orion. On November 20 it
\u25a0will pass very close , to the bright star Aldebaran,
the leading brilliant in* the constellation Taurus.
During January the comet will pass through the con
stellation Aries and Pisces, and on. March 21 will
pass near Algenib, in the constellation Pegasus.
After about April, it will be a matter of some tincer- ,
tainty how long it will be possible to see the comet as
it approaches the neighborhood of the sun. It will
certainly cease to be visible much longer in the
evening, but will reappear in the morning early in /
May, still in the northern, hemisphere, and still in
Pisces,- where it -.will be; until about May 14. After
that the comet will pass into the southern hemisphere
and remain there until it disappears altogether, which
may be in June or July.
\u25a0 The comet *will be nearest to the earth— that is, ;
,about \u25a012,000,000 niiles, and therefore at its maximum
brilliancy — about - May ; 18, but the moonlight will to
someextent spoilthe view, of the comet, so that, all
things considered, .the best view will be on May 21.
After* leaving the, constellation Pisces, about May 14,
•.the ~ comet's path will : be through Aries, Taurus,
Gemini, the head o( Orion, Canis Minor, Hydra,
:Sextaris, the feet of Leo and -Virgo, where it will
probably be last, seen, but the long days and short .
nights and the full moon, on May 22, with no true
. nighti at all during many weeks, will seriously inter
: fere iwith cometary observations.
After the comet has whirled around the sun, having
attained* by that time its maximum speed of 1,878
miles- a- minute, it will begin its return journey to
the';regions beyond the outermost planet, Neptune,
not-returning for another 74 or 75 years. On its way
it will pass \u25a0 near a number of bright stars, which
will be visible to observers living in the southern
hemisphere, at the cape, in Australia ',- or in New
Zealand a and can be seen by them for a long time.
The- bright stars along the pathway, shining like
beacon-lights, marking the celestial milestones of the
comet's track, will be Aldebaran, in Taurus; Betel
geuze, in Orion; Gamma Geminorum and Procyon.'in
theconstellation of Canis Minor.
The Efficient Human Engine
"T~HE human organism iis a machine of very high
! I ;-efficiency7 according to the latest researches on
the action of foods, made at the University of
Sheffield, England, by Professor Macdonald, and at
Wesleyan university, Middleton, Conn., by »Profes
sors Atwatcr and : Benedict. This means that an un
usually large proportion of the chemical energy con
tained in our food is transformed .within the body into
the mechanical energy of muscular movement. A
good: steam engine utilizes about 13 per cent of. the
heat* energy in its furnace. . Explosion motors \u0084do
better. A gas or gasoline engine, turns into useful
work about. 2o per cent ot, the energy possessed by
the .working substance. The human body does still
better, utilizing about 21 per cent of the energy' that
is /put into it. Thus the efficiency of the human ma
chine, despite the fact that it 3 mental functions are
almost continuously in action and that quantities Tof
energy are 'used up -within the body '_ to "operate "the
internal-organs, is nearly; twice; as great as ;that of a
steam engine and a littlehigher than thai of an inter
nal combustion engine. ';\u25a0" This, too, is -a normal per
formance; which is greatly exceeded in special cases.
An athlete, according to Professor Atwater's experi
ments/may have an ernciency as high as 36 per cent.
What -this' means we ; may realize when we recollect
that no heat engine, even 1 if ideally perfect, can -utilize
more than a -fraction of the energy used in running it,
and that the'size'bf this fraction is oroDOrtional to the*
extent temperature \vithin which 'the engine
wbrks-rjn * a^ steam f engine.% for instance^ ' to \ the differ
ence between the/ temperature of the : boiler arid that
of the condenser. Now, the human machine -works
betv'een- . limits "of .temperature -that are very close
together, >o that it? high effif-:»-icy is remarkable.

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