Astronomy for Young Australians
JAMES BONWICK, F.R.G.S.,
AUTHOR OF “GEOGRAPHY OF AUSTRALIA,” ETC., ETC.
PUBLISHED BY SAMUEL MULLEN,
COLLINS STREET EAST.
A cheap edition of the “Astronomy for YoungAustralians” having been desired, to meet therequirements of the Public Schools of thecolonies, Mr. Bonwick respectfully submits thepresent issue to the favourable attention ofTeachers.
November 1, 1866.
A Fine ship was buffeting the waves, like astrong swimmer in his sport. The cloudsdashed wildly to and fro, but left many widespaces of blue to be dotted with stars. Thesea was in high spirits, throwing up spray, asif to quench the bright lights that looked downso kindly upon it.
The vessel quite enjoyed the fun, and herprow bobbed in the current, and gathered upthe foam to send it flying up the rigging, orleave it hissing and fuming by her sides. Howskittish she was this evening, as the light cloudsran over her head, and the wind puffed herlaughingly along! She was young and strong.Her timbers were tight; and her yards wellbraced. She had just left port, painted andclean, with a new suit of sails, and her copperas bright as a fresh-coined penny.
And where was she going? Laden with thetreasures of English cotton and woollen mills,of iron-works, and other industries, she wasaway to the far-off land of Australia, on theother side of the round globe.
And whom had she got on board? There[Pg 4]were sailors to manage the merry ship; therewere passengers, going from the white cliffs ofold England, to dwell in the gum forests ofthe kangaroo home.
As the shore of Britain melted away in thedistance, men and women hung over the bulwarks,dreaming of sweet vales they leftbehind, and sighing deeply as they thought ofloved ones there. How long would it bebefore they saw those vales again, or smiledwith friends beside that hearth of love!
The love of one’s country, as the land of ourfriends, the joy of freedom, the defence of theright and true, is a duty as well as a delight.And those born in the new land of Australiashould cherish so beautiful and healthful ahome, and help to make it happy in the virtuesof its people.
One little intelligent fellow, about ten yearsold, hung closely against his mother’s dress,and caught hold of his father’s hand. Jamesknew his parents must feel sad at leaving dearones behind; and he inwardly resolved to be agreat comfort to them now by being a good,loving son.
The last speck of land was gone, and everybody turned round to the ship, preparing tomake that a home. Mr. and Mrs. Marplethought of their only child, for others had beenleft to sleep in a church-yard far away. Hewas their hope and joy. They determined toadd to his happiness, and secure him from theevil of idle ship-life, by improving his time andhis mind.
[Pg 5]This very evening, therefore, the kind fathertook James beside him in a quiet corner ondeck. They spoke at first of aunts and uncles,cousins and friends. Then a plunge of a porpoiseturned their eyes to the sea, or a screamof sea-fowl set them talking of natural history.A sober chat followed, and a moral lesson came.
A sudden unrolling of clouds brought outsuch a dazzle of starry splendour, that bothgazed with delight upon the ever-wondrousheavens. It was then that Mr. Marpledetermined, among other subjects, to makethe boy understand astronomy. This he wasto do by leading the lad himself to observe;and, under his direction, to find out the lawsof the universe himself.
A few stars were pointed out. There wasthe North Polar star, that keeps such a constantplace. There were the gentle Pleiades.There was the beautiful Belt of Orion to thesouth. There was, too, though very near thewaves to the southward, the bright Dog-star,Sirius.
DAILY MOTION OF THE EARTH.
The following dialogue took place one eveningon deck:—
“Well, my little fellow, what is there whichso attracts your attention? for you havescarcely moved for this last half-hour.
I have been looking at the stars, father.
What is so wonderful in them this evening?
[Pg 6]There is something wonderful in them whichI never noticed before.
What is that?
I will tell you. When I first came upondeck after tea, I saw a bright star rising likeas if it came out of the water. While lookingat its pretty light, it seemed to get higher andhigher up the sky.
Did it run away from the other stars, andget a head of them?
No. But I thought it did at first, until I hadwatched, and then I found that the starsaround about kept at the same distance frommy bright star, and appeared to keep companywith it while climbing the sky.
And what else did you see?
Afterwards I thought I would watch thebeautiful Sirius. This seemed to be movingon, too. Then I looked at others. But theyall appeared to be rolling along after oneanother.
What do you make of all this?
I can make nothing of it.
What puzzles you, my boy?
Several things. I cannot understand whereall the stars are rolling to, why they all keeptogether so cleverly in their motion, or whythey are moving at all.
Did you see any stars setting as well asrising?
Well, as I want you to find out this subjectyourself, I shall allow you to stay up later thisevening, to give you time to make a few more[Pg 7]observations. Now, follow your bright star alittle further. Look at that blue one overhead,and trace his journey. Have your eyes uponSirius, and the band of Orion.
I will, father, and thank you.”
The boy was left at his star-gazing, andintently was his mind fixed upon his work. Itwas no vacant stare he gave at the heavens.He had an object before him.
The conversation was afterwards renewed bythe father:—
“I should think you were sleepy, James.
No, father: the stars kept my eyes open.
How, now, does your star get on?
Look up there. He has got as far as that.
Where is the blue-coloured one?
O, that has gone down to the western edge.
What of my old friend Sirius, and hisneighbour Orion?
They have been travelling the same road.
Well, you must stop star-gazing to-night.
But will you not explain the reason of thiscurious motion, my dear father, before I go down?
No, my lad, you must have another look atthe stars to-morrow evening first.”
The little fellow retired slowly and thoughtfullyto his berth; and dreamed of stars andships in mingled confusion. How he longedfor the sun to leave off his shining! He neverwatched that orb so as he did that day! Hesaw it rise, ascend, descend, and set. When[Pg 8]the short twilight was over, the little twinklingbodies came out one by one, as a few westernclouds changed from gorgeous red to colours ofa darker hue. He first distinguished Sirius,and then the band of Orion. The blue startook some time to come forth; but when it did,there it was right overhead, as it had been earlythe last evening. The bright star was againon the tip of the distant waves. He staredagain. He remembered how he had left themall the night before, and now the stars seemedin their old places again. His kind father cameup to him.
“O, father,” cried the boy, “all my starshave gone back into their places again thisevening.
Did you see them travel back as you sawthem travel forward?
No. But there they are, though I do notknow how they got there.
I think I saw you looking pretty often atthe sun, to-day. Did you notice anythingpeculiar about his movements?
Yes. I noticed that he seemed to go thesame road as my stars did the evening before.
But you saw him ascend in the east, risenearly overhead, and then set in the west.You did not observe your stars do that.
No, father; but I have it. It took a longwhile for the sun to go all that distance; andI fancy that if I had watched my bright staras long, I should have seen that set in thewest also.
Certainly you would.
[Pg 9]Well, but how did they get back into theirplaces again?
How will the sun manage to get on the eastside, to-morrow morning?
Ah! I see. What will explain the movementof the stars will explain the movement ofthe sun.
I think you will find it so.
There is only one way by which I canaccount for this—they must all turn roundthe earth. Is that it, father?
Everybody used to think so.
But what surprises me is this; as the starsare turning round us, none get before or behindthe others. They keep the same distance apart.
Do you not know that all the stars are stuckin a huge mass of blue stuff, called the sky,and that when the sky turns all of them mustturn with it, and, unless they tumble out, theymust keep in their places?
O, father, you are joking.
Well, then, if they are not joined together,why do they move so uniformly?
That I cannot tell.
No two of the stars are of equal distancefrom us. They are all scattered through space,like a lot of marbles in a scramble.
Then if they had to move round the world,I am sure they never would keep in such order,especially as some would have to go so muchfaster than others; for they have a much greaterdistance to go. They cannot turn round theearth in that way. But yet they seem to do so.
Yes. But just look forward. Do you see[Pg 10]how the head of the vessel is dipping into theBay of Biscay?
I do, father.
But do you notice that as the bow of theship sinks and rises, all the stars to the southwardseem to dance up and down?
Now I understand. Like as these starsappear to dance about according to the motionof the ship, so the apparent motion of the starsround the earth in twenty-four hours must beowing to the motion of the earth. The earthmust turn over once a day. It is easier toimagine this, than to imagine such extraordinarymotions to take place among the stars.”
ROTUNDITY OF THE EARTH.
It was fine fun for the healthy, heartyEnglish boy to be tossed about in the GreatAtlantic. What a noble, towering wave wasthat which raised up the ship, but only to letit down in the deep trough of the sea, whileits crest hung over it, as if to drive it to thebottom!
As the day passed off, and the sombre cloudsthronged the western horizon, James got toneddown, and became thoughtful and still. Thenwas his face turned from the waves to the stars,being never tired of watching their motionsand admiring their beauty.
[Pg 11]He had long been regarding the heavens oneevening, when he turned, as he heard hisfather’s step, and exclaimed—
“The more I study the stars, father, themore their motions bother me.
How is that, my son?
When we first left England I saw the Polarstar and Great Bear a good height up in theheavens, toward the north, and Sirius lowdown toward the south.
Have they been playing any tricks with you?
I do not know that. But as we have beensailing towards the equator, I have observedthe Great Bear going gradually down, andSirius as gradually coming up. I am afraid Ishall lose the Polar star altogether soon.And now I have another trouble. I do notknow what to make of a number of new starscoming up from the southward.
Would it be owing to the shape of the earth,think you?
Aye, I never thought of that.
If we were sailing on a flat surface all thislong way, would you see these ups and downsof the stars?
No, I think not. The truth is, it seems tome that we have been going up a hill, if thestars do not move.
That will account for your Great Bear goingdown; but what should cause these new starsto appear in the south?
Why, that looks as though we were gettingup to the top of the hill, and should have togo down on the other side.
[Pg 12]What shape, then, do you suppose the worldought to be, to account for these curious apparentmotions of the stars?
I fancy it ought