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north, the equator is elevated fifty degrees above the southern horizon.
The earth is divided into five zones. That portion of the earth which lies between the tropics is called the torrid zone; that between the tropics and the polar circles, the temperate zones ; and that between the polar circles and the poles, the frigid zones.
The zodiac is the part of the celestial sphere which lies about eight degrees on each side of the ecliptic. This portion of the heavens is thus marked off by itself, because all the planets move within it.
After endeavoring to form, from the definitions, as clear an idea as we can of the various circles of the sphere, we may next resort to an artificial globe, and see how they are severally represented there. I do not advise to begin learning the definitions from the globe; the mind is more improved, and a power of conceiving clearly how things are in Nature is more effectually acquired, by referring every thing, at first, to the grand sphere of Nature itself, and afterwards resorting to artificial representations to aid our conceptions. We can get but a very imperfect idea of a man from a profile cut in paper, unless we know the original. If we are acquainted with the individual, the profile will assist us to recall his appearance more distinctly than we can do without it. In like manner, orreries, globes, and other artificial aids, will be found very useful, in assisting us to form distinct conceptions of the relations existing between the different circles of the sphere, and of the arrangements of the heavenly bodies; but, unless we have already acquired some correct ideas of these things, by contemplating them as they are in Nature, artificial globes, and especially orreries, will be apt to mislead us.
I trust you will be able to obtain the use of a globe, * to aid you in the study of the foregoing definitions, or doctrine of the sphere; but if not, I would recommend the following easy device. To represent the earth, select a large apple, (a melon, when in season, will be found still better.) The eye and the stem of the apple will indicate the position of the two poles of the earth. Applying the thumb and finger of the left hand to the poles, and holding the apple so that the poles may be in a north and south line, turn this globe from west to east, and its motion will correspond to the diurnal movement of the earth. Pass a wire or a knitting needle through the poles, and it will represent the axis of the sphere. A circle cut around the apple, half way between the poles, will be the equator; and several other circles cut between the equator and the poles, parallel to the equator, will represent parallels of latitude ; of which, two, drawn twenty-three and a half degrees from the equator, will be the tropics, and two others, at the same distance from the poles, will be the polar circles. A great circle cut through the poles, in a north and south direction, will form the meridian, and several other great circles drawn through the poles, and of course perpendicularly to the equator, will be secondaries to the equator, constituting meridians, or hour circles. A great circle cut through the centre of the earth, from one tropic to the other, would represent the plane of the ecliptic; and consequently a line cut round the apple where such a section meets the surface, will be the terrestrial ecliptic. The points where this circle meets the tropics indicate the position of the solstices; and its intersection with the equator, that of the equinoctial points.
* A small pair of globes, that will answer every purpose required by the readers of these Letters, may be had of the publishers of this Work, at a price not exceeding ten dollars ; or half that sum for a celestial globe, which will serve alone for studying astronomy. 3
The horizon is best represented by a circular piece of pasteboard, cut so as to fit closely to the apple, being movable upon it.
When this horizon is passed through the poles, it becomes the horizon of the equator; when it is so placed as to coincide with the earth's equator, it becomes the horizon of the poles; and in every other situation it represents the horizon of a place on the globe ninety degrees every way from it. Suppose we are in latitude forty degrees; then let us place our movable paper parallel to our own horizon, and elevate the pole forty degrees above it, as near as we can judge by the eye. If we cut a circle around the apple, passing through its highest part, and through the east and west points, it will represent the prime vertical.
Simple as the foregoing device is, if you will take the trouble to construct one for yourself, it will lead you to more correct views of the doctrine of the sphere, than you would be apt to obtain from the most expensive artificial globes, although there are many other useful purposes which such globes serve, for which the apple would be inadequate. When you have thus made a sphere for yourself, or, with an artificial globe before you,
have access to one, proceed to point out on it the various arcs of azimuth and altitude, right ascension and declination, terrestrial and celestial latitude and longitude,—these last being referred to the equator on the earth, and to the ecliptic in the heavens.
When the circles of the sphere are well learned, we may advantageously employ projections of them in various illustrations. By the projection of the sphere is meant a representation of all its parts on a plane. The plane itself is called the plane of projection. Let us take any circular ring, as a wire bent into a circle, and hold it in different positions before the eye. If we hold it parallel to the face, with the whole breadth opposite to the eye, we see it as an entire circle. If we turn it a little sideways, it appears oval, or as an ellipse; and, as we continue to turn it more and more round, the ellipse grows narrower and narrower, until, when the edge is presented to the eye, we see nothing but a line. Now imagine the ring to be near a perpendicular wall, and the eye to be removed at such a distance from it, as not to distinguish any interval between the ring and the wall; then the several figures under which the ring is seen will appear to be inscribed on the wall, and we
shall see the ring as a circle, when perpendicular to a straight line joining the centre of the ring and the eye, or as an ellipse, when oblique to this line, or as a straight line, when its edge is towards us.
It is in this manner that the circles of the sphere are projected, as represented in the following diagram, Fig. 2. Fig. 2.
Here, various circles
represented as projected on the meridian, which is supposed to be situated directly before the eye, at some distance from it. The horizon HO, being perpendicular to the meridian, is seen edgewise, and consequently is projected into a straight
line. The same is the case with the prime vertical Z N, with the equator E Q, and the several small circles parallel to the equator, which represent the two tropics and the two polar circles. In fact, all circles whatsoever, which are perpendicular to the plane of projection, will be represented by straight lines. But every circle which is perpendicular to the horizon, except the prime vertical, being seen obliquely, as Z M N, will be projected into an ellipse, one half only of which is seen,--the other half being on the other side of the plane of projection. In the same manner, PRP, an hour circle, is represented by an ellipse on the plane of projection.
“Here truths sublime, and sacred science charm,
Creative arts new faculties supply,
IF, as I trust, you have gained a clear and familiar knowledge of the circles and divisions of the sphere, and of the mode of estimating the position of a heavenly body by its azimuth and altitude, or by its right ascension and declination, or by its longitude and latitude, you will now enter with advantage upon an account of those instruments, by means of which our knowledge of astronomy has been greatly promoted and perfected.
The most ancient astronomers employed no instruments of observation, but acquired their knowledge of the heavenly bodies by long-continued and most attentive inspection with the naked eye. Instruments for measuring angles were first used in the Alexandrian school, about three hundred years before the Christian
Wherever we are situated on the earth, we appear to . be in the centre of a vast sphere, on the concave surface of which all celestial objects are inscribed. If we take any two points on the surface of the sphere, as two stars, for example, and imagine straight lines to be drawn to them from the eye, the angle included between these lines will be measured by the arc of the sky contained between the two points. Thus, if DBH, Fig. 3, page 30, represents the concave surface of the sphere, A, B, two points on it, as two stars, and C A, C B, straight lines drawn from the spectator to those points, then the angular distance between them is measured by the arc AB, or the angle ACB. But this an