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The Washington times. [volume] (Washington [D.C.]) 1902-1939, October 27, 1918, NATIONAL EDITION, Section of the Washington Times, Image 20

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1918-10-27/ed-1/seq-20/

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Cf the Nautical Almatrtch OfRee, United
States Nival Obiervatory, Wathlnnton
OBSERVATIONS ot the total eclipse
at the Bun that tras-Ttslbld la the
United -elates on the eighth, ot last
June hare yielded result that will be ot
great value to science. A larte number of
"excellent photographic and spectroscopic
records ot the solar corona, that la risible
only during the briet moments ot a total
eclipse of the sun, were obtalned.br nearly
all of the eclipse expeditions that were sta
tioned along the path- ot totality in the
- western. States from Washington to
Kansas.
It Is expected that tho information de
rlTed from careful future examinations ot
these records will materially assist in ad
vancing our knowledge ot the nature ot
the solar radiations and the connections
existing between the snn spot cycle ot
solar activity and all the attendant, compli
cated phenomena of the Upper solar at
mosphere, as well as the resulting changes
In the earth's magnetism and weather con
ditions. On nearly eTry clear day for several
weeks preceding the eventful day of the
eclipse sun spot groups were to be seen
on the surface of the sun. The period of
maximum solar activity for this cycle was
passed only a year or so ago, and as the
decline toward the period of minimum ac
tivity several years hence is very gradual
it was predicted that the light of that
mysterious halo ot the sun, the corona,
would be unusually brilliant. This predic
tion was fulfilled, for the corona, visible
during the eclipse ofJune 8, will go down
Into eclipse history as one ot the most
brilliant and Interesting in its complicated
structure of any ot the eclipses ot recent
years.
Prints from original negatives unfortu
nately fall utterly to convey to us any Idea
of the magnificence ot the coronal structure,
while the exquisite pearly radiance ot Its
light, described by observers of this eclipse
as bluish-white, is but a cherished memory
to those who were fortunate enough to ob
serve It. To appreciate bow complex and
Uit-lcate Is the structure ot the corona one
must go either to the original' negatives
that are full ot detail, to photographic
copies on glass or drawings from the orig
inal negatives. No adequate method for
n-ro luclng the coronal structure on prints
has yet been devised. The accompanying
ri.-ivlng of tho corona made by Edison
Pettlt from negatives obtained at Mathe
son, Col gives us what the photographic
prints cannot give an excellent Idea of
the complicated structure of the corona.
It must be left to the painter to convey
to the mind the superb coloring, the con
trasting effect of the blood-red prom!- -nences,
that were so conspicuous in this
eclipse, with the grayish tinged disk of the
occulting moon, the orange-tinged chromo
sphere and the pearly light of the coronal
streamers interlaced to form the petals of
some flowers gorgeous beyond description
or curved Into a series of gothlc arches
enveloping the most conspicuous promi
nences and towering to a height of more
than two hundred thousand miles above
the' surface of the eun.
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Drawing of the Corona Made from
Photographs Taken at Matheaon,
Colorado, Showing the Com
plicated Structure of the
Corona. By Edison Pettlt
The corona ot the June eclipse was very
unsymmetrical, resembling a huge triangle
in form, with the base to the west ot the
sun and the apex to the east It is ot the
mixed type. In which the more evenly de
veloped streamers to the west represent
the type associated with maximum sun
spot activity and the longer equatorial,
streamers to the east the sunspot minimum
type, showing that tho decline toward min
imum solar activity for this cycle has al
ready begun.
The longest coronal streamers, those to
the east of the sun, It has been estimated,
extend to a distance 'of fully three solar
diameters, or over two and one-half mil
lion miles. This distance is not unusual.
In fact, during certain eclipses streamers
eight or nine million miles in extent have
been observed. The petal formation so
noticeable In this eclipse has also been
noted in certain past eclipses, particularly
in the Indian eclipse of 189S. Most of the
petal-forming streamers seem to originate
near the limits of the sunspot tone, while
those over the solar poles are straight.
The arching ot the coronal rays over all
the most Important prominences is con
sidered to be very significant. It has also
been Observed in sovcral past eclipses, and
there sccma little doubt now that the same
forces in the sun that produced the erup
tive prominences were also responsible for
the arches above them. It Is probable that
the coronal streamers are largely electrical
In their origin, just as the auroral stream
ers of the earth's upper atmosphere are
electrical phenomena.
Evidence Is also forthcoming from the
June eclipse to strengthen the view that
condensed metallic vapors are projected
to distances of several million miles from
the solar surface far beyond tho limits
reached by the prominences whose aver
age height is from fifty thousand to one
hundred thousand miles, though heights
of over three hundred thousand miles have
been attained by certain spectacular prom
inences. The light of .the inner corona, it has
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Astronomical Photographer Throwing an Image of the Sun Into
a Camera 100 Feet in Length.
been found from a preliminary study ot the
spectograms taken on June S, consists
chiefly of intense continuous radiations.
That the light of the Inner corona Is not
due to reflected sunllghtVto any great ex
tent Is shown from the fact that the dark
absorption lines of the normal rolar spec
trums were absent. Five bright lines were
seen clearly, and their wave lengths have
been measured. Including the Important
green line of the unknown element cor
onium. The existence of seven additional bright
Hues was suspected, but theso were ex
tremely faint The corona has shown .In
several recent eclipses as many as four
teen bright lines very plainly. The com
parative falntness of the lines in the cor
ona observed in June is believed to bo due
to the fact that the solar activity was very
great at this time. As a result mora than
the usual amount of solar matter was being
ejected from the surface of the sun Into
the Inner corona as well as Into the
chromosphere, the lower solar atmosphere.
This produced the unusual general bril
Copyright, 1918, by Star Company.
llancy of the corona and the relative falnt
ness of the true coronal lines. Though
the characteristic lines of the, corona were
below the average In number and Inten
sity, scores ot bright lines belonging to
the gases of the prominences were re
corded. It will be possible to obtain from the
observations of this eclipse very accurate
measurements of the green line ot coro
nium. Preliminary measurements of this
lllie place it at wave length 5303 Instead
of 5317, the value that was held for so
many years, and therefore confirms the
results obtained by Professor W. W. Camp
bell and others in more recent years. The
location of this line In the spectrum Is of
the greatest importance. It is useless to
expect to identity the clement coronlum
until It wave length Is known with a
high degree of accuracy. It Is one of the
first laws ot spectrum analysis that every
chemical element has its own character
istic line or group of lines In tho spectrum.
Tho green line of the spectrum at wave
length 5303, so far seen only during total
Great Britain Rights Reserved.
eclipse, belongs to the unknown element
coronlum.
It is strongly suspected that this Is not
the only line of this element though it is
the most intense one. It is believed that
there are at least two or three fainter lines
belonging to this element in the violet
end ot the spectrum.
It is also believed that there may be two
of three mere unknown elements that are
true coronal elements, occurring, however,
less generally than coronlum. it Is not
likely that all ot the fourteen or mdre
bright lines "of unknown origin that have
been observed in the corona belong Co the
element coronlum. It is believed by cer
tain scientists that the coronal lines rep-,
resent some form of matter electrically
excited. Knowing the accurate wave
length of coronlum, it may fie possible to
identify it by laboratory experiments with
some element existing on the earth, Just
as Ramsay, in 1895, discovered helium in -the
mineral clevlte long after it had been
discovered in the atmosphere ot the sun.
According to spectroscopic observations
recorded on June 8, showing the distribu
tion of coronlum around the sun, aswell
as several of the most characteristic) gaAa
ot the prominences, this element is very
irregularly distributed id the solar atmos
phere. It occurred in greatest abundance
In the sunspot sone, was observed to a
considerable extent in the vicinity of the
south solar .pole, but was entirety absent
in the neighborhood of the north pole ot
the sun. Moreover, its distribution was
entirely independent ot the elements be-'
longing to the prominences, 'thus showing
that there is no necessary connection be
tween the solar prominences and the ele
ment coronlum.
A most spectacular feature of the eclipse
was the magnificent solar prominences,
capped with sharply curved coronal arches.
To the astronomer observations of tho
prominences during totality are not now
considered of great importance, since it
has been possible tor some time to study
these products of the ceaseless solar ac
tivity on any clear day by means of suit
able spectroscopic Instruments.
Their association with the coronal
arches In this eclipse, as well as In cer
tain previous eclipses, is important, since
it may lead to a better understanding of
the nature and' underlying causes ot the
peculiar coronal streamers. The promi
nences observed In this eclipse were ofj
The 3t' Cereea, Skowfcg Enrp-
tiveTremiaeaees, Photographed
Daring the Total Eclipse of
Jus 8, 1918, at Greett
River,. "Wyoming, hy the
Expedition of the
Yerkes Observatory
average height The two most cqnsplcu
ouswere apparently between fiftr thou
sand: and sixty thousand miles in height
though their actual height may have been
somewhat greater owing to th effect of
fore-shortening. One of these is most
peculiar In form, resembjing the skeleton
of some monstrous prehistoric creature,
so huge that two or three planets the size
ot the earth could be lodged In his skull.
Spectroscopic records show considerable
distortion ot the Images of this prominence.
It was, thererure, extremely active. Such
eruptive prominences frequently possess
Velocities greater than one hundred miles
per second, and undergo radical change of
form within a very tew minutes.
The accompanying photograph of the
eclipse, taken by the Yerkea Observatory
expedition at Green River, Wyoming,
shows this peculiar prominence very clear
ly. The eruptive varieties ot prominence
are always extremely short-lived, coming
and going aa the result of some myster
ious form ot solar activity that undergoes
a periodic cycle, ot change and regulates
not only the frequency ot these outbursts
ot Incandescent gases from the sun's in
terior, brat also the frequency ot sunspots
and many allied phenomena, such as the
form of .the corona and the general mag
netic field of the sun. Discoveries bearing
upon the cause Of any one of these phe
nomena may unravel the secret ot the oth
ers, for all are different manifestations of
some great underlying force that pulsates
periodically through the sun's Interior.
It Is still early to consider the cpmplete
results ot the June eclipse. Since most ot
the astronomers who observed it are now
busily decupled with astronomical work
connected with the war, and have had. in.
many Instances, no opportunity to examine
extensively the records obtained. Some of
the photographs and spectrograms have not
yet been developed and a number of ob
servers have made only preliminary re
ports. ' The total phase ot the eclipse was ob
served with great success by the Lick Ob
servatory expedition at Ooldendale, Wash.
According to Professor'W. W. Campbell,
director, ot the Lick Observatory, the ob
servations are the most valuable obtained
by any .expedition that has ever been sent
out from the Lick Observatory.
The United States Naval Observatory
was granted an appropriation of three thou
sand dollars by Congress in 1916 for the
observation ot this eclipse, and, obtained
valuable results at Baker, Oregon. The
Yerkes Observatory was Interested In three
stations, one at Green River, Wyo.; a sec
ond at Denver,. Col., and the third at
Matherson, Col. Observations ot great
value were made at Matheson, where a
number of expeditions trom college and
State observatories were also stationed.
Unfortunately, nor observations were pos
sible at Denver, Col., where extensive
plans had been made to observe the
eclipse. Failure was due to the presence
of dense clouds that pei slated throughout
the entire eclipse period.
WJfe-.
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