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speaking of the telescope, whenever we increase the magnifying power of this instrument we diminish its field of view, so that with very high magnifiers we can see nothing but a point, such as a fixed star. We at the same time, also, magnify the vapors and smoke of the atmosphere, and all the imperfections of the medium, which greatly obscures the object, and prevents our seeing it distinctly. Hence it is generally most satisfactory to view the moon with low
which afford a large field of view and give a clear light. With Clark's telescope, belonging to Yale College, we seldom gain any thing by applying to the moon a higher power than one hundred and eighty, although the instrument admits of magnifiers as high as four hundred and fifty.
Some writers, however, suppose that possibly we may trace indications of lunar inhabitants in their works, and that they may in like manner recognise the existence of the inhabitants of our planet. An author, who has reflected much on subjects of this kind, reasons as follows: “A navigator who approaches within a certain distance of a small island, although he perceives no human being upon it, can judge with certainty that it is inhabited, if he perceives human habitations, villages, corn-fields, or other traces of cultivation. In like manner, if we could perceive changes or operations in the moon, which could be traced to the agency of intelligent beings, we should then obtain satisfactory evidence that such beings exist on that planet; and it is thought possible that such operations may be traced. A telescope which magnifies twelve hundred times will enable us to perceive, as a visible point on the surface of the moon, an object whose diameter is only about three hundred feet. Such an object is not larger than many of our public edifices; and therefore, were any such edifices rearing in the moon, or were a town or city extending its boundaries, or were operations of this description carrying on, in a district where no such edifices had previously been erected, such objects and operations might probably be detected by a minute inspection. Were a multitude of living creatures moving from place to place, in a body, or were they even encamping in an extensive plain, like a large army, or like a tribe of Arabs in the desert, and afterwards removing, it is possible such changes might be traced by the difference of shade or color, which such movements would produce. In order to detect such minute objects and operations, it would be requisite that the surface of the moon should be distributed among at least a hundred astronomers, each having a spot or two allotted to him, as the object of his more particular investigation, and that the observations be continued for a period of at least thirty or forty years, during which time certain changes would probably be perceived, arising either from physical causes, or from the operations of living
THE MOON.-PHASES.-HARVEST MOON. -LIBRATIONS.
“First to the neighboring Moon this mighty key
In a soft deluge overflows the sky.”—Thomson's Elegy. Let us now inquire into the revolutions of the moon around the earth, and the various changes she undergoes every month, called her phases, which depend on the different positions she assumes, with respect to the earth and the sun, in the course of her revolution.
The moon revolves about the earth from west to east. Her apparent orbit, as traced out on the face of the sky, is a great circle ; but this fact would not certainly prove that the orbit is really a circle, since, if it were án ellipse, or even a more irregular curve, the projection of it on the face of the sky would be a circle, as explained to you before. (See page 148.) The moon is comparatively so near to the earth, that her apparent movements are very rapid, so that, by attentively watching her progress in a clear night, we may see her move from star to star, changing her place perceptibly, every few hours. The interval during which she goes through the entire circuit of the heavens, from any star until she comes round to the same star again, is called a sidereal month, and consists of about twenty-seven and one fourth days. The time which intervenes between one new moon and another is called a synodical month, and consists of nearly twenty-nine and a half days. A new moon occurs when the sun and moon meet in the same part of the heavens; but the sun as well as the moon is apparently travelling eastward, and nearly at the rate of one degree a day, and consequently, during the twenty-seven days while the moon has been going round the earth, the sun has been going forward about the same number of degrees in the same direction. Hence, when the moon comes round to the part of the heavens where she passed the sun last, she does not find him there, but must go on more than two days, before she comes up with him again.
* Dick's · Celestial Scenery.'
The moon does not pursue precisely the same track around the earth as the sun does, in his apparent annual motion, though she never deviates far from that track. The inclination of her orbit to the ecliptic is only about five degrees, and of course the moon is never seen further from the ecliptic than about that distance, and she is commonly much nearer to the ecliptic than five degrees. We may therefore see nearly what is the situation of the ecliptic in our evening sky at any particular time of year, just by watching the path which the moon pursues, from night to night, from new to full moon.
The two points where the moon's orbit crosses the ecliptic are called her nodes. They are the intersections of the lunar and solar orbits, as the equinoxes are the intersections of the equinoctial and ecliptic, and, like the latter, are one hundred and eighty degrees apart.
The changes of the moon, commonly called her phases, arise from different portions of her illuminated side being turned towards the earth at different times. When the moon is first seen after the setting sun, her form is that of a bright crescent, on the side of the disk next to the sun, while the other portions of the disk shine with a feeble light, reflected to the moon from the earth. Every night, we observe the moon to be further and further eastward of the sun, until, when she has reached an elongation from the sun of ninety degrees, half her visible disk is enlightened, and she is said to be in her first quarter. The terminator, or line which separates the illuminated from the dark part of the moon, is convex towards the sun from the new to the first quarter, and the moon is said to be horned. The extremities of the crescent are called cusps. At the first quarter, the terminator becomes a straight line, coinciding with the diameter of the disk ; but after passing this point, the terminator becomes concave towards the sun, bounding that side of the moon by an elliptical curve, when the moon is said to be gibbous. When the moon arrives at the distance of one hundred and eighty degrees from the sun, the entire circle is illuminated, and the moon is full. She is then in opposition to the sun, rising about the time the sun sets. For a week after the full, the moon appears gibbous again, until, having arrived within ninety degrees of the sun, she resumes the same form as at the first quarter, being then at her third quarter. From this time until new moon, she exhibits again the form of a crescent before the rising sun, until, approaching her conjunction with the sun, her narrow thread of light is lost in the solar blaze; and finally, at the moment of passing the sun, the dark side is wholly turned towards us, and for some time we lose sight of the moon.
By inspecting Fig, 38, (where T represents the earth,
A, B, C, &c., the moon in her orbit, and a, b, c, &c., her phases, as seen in the heavens,) we shall easily see how all these changes occur.
You have doubtless observed, that the moon appears much further in the south at one time than at another, when of the same age.
This is owing to the fact that the ecliptic, and of course the moon's path, which is always very near it, is differently situated with respect to the horizon, at a given time of night, at different seasons of the year. This you will see at once, by turning to an artificial globe, and observing how the ecliptic stands with respect to the horizon, at different peri