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Of Astronomy in general.
1. O "
F all the sciences cultivated by mankind, The gener
astronomy is acknowledged to be, and undoubtedly is, the most sublime, the most inter- my. esting, and the most useful. For, by knowledge derived from this science, not only the magnitude of the earth is discovered, the situation and extent of the countries and kingdoms upon it ascertained, trade and commerce carried on to the remotest parts of the world, and the various products of several countries distributed for the health, comfort, and conveniency of its inhabitants; but our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above the low contracted prejudices of the vulgar, and our understandings clearly convinced, and affected with the conviction, of the existence, wisdom, power, goodness, immutability, and superintendency of the SUPREME BEING. So that, without an hyperbole,
« An undevout astronomer is mad.*"}
2. From this branch of knowledge we also learn by what means or laws the Almighty carries on, and continues, the wonderful harmony, order, and connexion, observable throughout the planetary system; and are led, by very powerful arguments, to form this pleasing deduction—that minds capable
Dr. Young's Night Thoughts,
of such deep researches, not only derive their origin from that adorable Being, but are also incited to aspire after a more perfect knowledge of his nature, and a stricter conformity to his will
. The Earth 3. By astronomy, we discover that the Earth is but a point
at so great a distance from the Sun, that it seen from from the thence it would appear no larger than a point ; alSun.
though its circumference is known to be 25,020 miles. Yet even this distance is so small, compared with that of the fixed stars, that if the orbit in which the Earth moves round the Sun were solid, and seen from the nearest star, it would likewise appear no . larger than a point; although it is about 162 mil. hons of miles in diameter. For the Earth, in go. ing round the Sun, is 162 millions of miles nearer to some of the stars at one time of the year, than at another; and yet their apparent magnitudes, si. tuations and distances from one another, still re. main the same; and a telescope which magnifies above 200 times, does not sensibly magnify them. This proves them to be at least 400 thousand times farther from us than we are from the Sun.
4. It is not to be imagined that all the stars are placed in one concave surface, so as to be equally distant from us; but that they are placed at im. mense distances from one another, through unli
So that there may be as great a distance between any two neighbouring stars, as be. tween the Sun and those which are nearest to him.
An observer, therefore, who is nearest any fixed The stars star, will look upon it alone as a real Sun; and conare suns, sider the rest as so many shining points, placed at
equal distances from him in the firmament.
5. By the help of telescopes we discover thousands of stars which are invisible to the bare eye; and
the better our glasses are, still the more stars become and innu- visible : so that we can set no limits either to their merable.
number or their distances. The celebrated Huy. GENS carried his thoughts so far, as to believe it not impossible that there may be stars at such
inconceivable distances, that their light has not yet reached the Earth since its creation ; although the velocity of light be a million of times greater than the velocity of a cannon-ball, as shall be demonstrated afterward, ý 197. 216. And, as Mr. AdDISON very justly observes, this thought is far from being extravagant, when we consider that the universe is the work of infinite power, prompted by infinite goodness; having an infinite space to exert it. self in; so that our imaginations can set no bounds to it.
6t The Sun appears very bright and large in Why the comparison with the fixed stars, because we keep constantly near the Sun, in comparison with our ger than immense distance from the stars. For, a spectator
the stars. placed as near to any star as we are to the Sun, would see that star a body as large and bright as the Sun appears to us : and a spectator as far distant from the sun as we are from the stars, would see the Sun as small as we see a star, divested of all its circumvolving planets; and would reckon it one of the stars in numbering them.
7. The stars, being at such immense distances The stars from the Sun, cannot possibly receive from him so are not en. strong a light as they seem to have; nor any bright- by the ness sufficient to make them visible to us. For the Sun. Sun's rays must be so scattered and dissipated before they reach such remote objects, that they can never be transmitted back to our eyes, so as to render these objects visible by reflection. The stars therefore shine with their own native and unborrowed lustre, as the Sun does. And since each par. ticular star, as well as the Sun, is confined to a particular portion of space, it is plain that the stars are of the same nature with the Sun.
8. It is no ways probable that the Almighty, who always acts with infinite wisdom, and does nothing in vain, should create so many glorious suns, fit for so many important purposes, and place them at such distances from one another, without pro
per objects near enough to be benefited by their They are influence. Whoever imagines that they were created surround. only to give a faint glimmering light to the inhaed by pla- bitants of this globe, must have a very superficial
knowledge of astronomy, and a mean opinion of the Divine Wisdom: since, by an infinitely less exertion of creating power, the Deity could have given our Earth much more light by one single aduitional
9. Instead then of one Sun and one world only in the universe, as the unskilful in astronomy imagine, that science discovers to us such an inconceivable number of suns, systems, and worlds, dispersed through boundless space, that if our Sun, with all the planets, moons, and comets, belonging to it, were annihilated, they would be no more missed, by an eye that could take in the whole creation, than a grain of sand from the sea-shorethe space they possess being comparatively so small, that it would scarce be a sensible blank in the uni.
Saturn, indeed, the outermost of our planets, revolves about the Sun in an orbit of 4884 millions of miles in circumference ;* and some of our comets make excursions upwards of ten thousand millions of miles beyond Saturn's orbit; and yet, at that amazing distance, they are incomparably nearer to the Sun than to any of the stars. This is evident from their keeping clear of the attractive power of all the stars, and returning periodically by
virtue of the Sun's attraction. The stel. 10. From what we know of our own system, it lar planets may be ha. may be reasonably concluded that all the rest are bitable, with equal wisdom contrived, situate, and pro
vided with accommodations for rational inhabitants. Let us therefore take a survey of the system to which we belong, the only one accessible to us, and from thence we shall be the better
The Georgian planet, discovered since Mr. Ferguson's time, revolves round the Sun in an orbit 5673 millions of miles in circumference.