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Popular Science Monthly Oct, Nov, Dec, 1915 — Volume 86   By:

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NOTE: degrees A (Absolute?) is the same as the current degrees K (Kelvin).

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY VOLUME LXXXVI JULY TO SEPTEMBER, 1915

THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY VOLUME I OCTOBER TO DECEMBER, 1915

EDITED BY J. McKEEN CATTELL

THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY OCTOBER, 1915

THE EVOLUTION OF THE STARS AND THE FORMATION OF THE EARTH. II

BY DR. WILLIAM WALLACE CAMPBELL

DIRECTOR OF THE LICK OBSERVATORY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

THE PRINCIPLES OF SPECTROSCOPY

THUS far our description of the stellar universe has been confined to its geometrical properties. A serious study of the evolution of the stars must seek to determine, first of all, what the stars really are, what their chemical constitutions and physical conditions are; and how they are related to each other as to their physical properties. The application of the spectroscope has advanced our knowledge of the subject by leaps and bounds. This wonderful instrument, assisted by the photographic plate, enables every visible celestial body to write its own record of the conditions existing in itself, within limits set principally by the brightness of the body. Such records physicists have succeeded to some extent in duplicating in their laboratories; and the known conditions under which the laboratory experiments have been conducted are the Rosetta Stones which are enabling us to interpret, with more or less success, the records written by the stars.

It is well known that the ordinary image of a star, whether formed by the eye alone, or by the achromatic telescope and the eye combined, contains light of an infinite variety of colors corresponding, speaking according to the mechanical theory of light, to waves of energy of an infinite variety of lengths which have traveled to us from the star. In the point image of a star, these radiations fall in a confused heap. and the observer is unable to say that radiations corresponding to any given wave lengths are present or absent. When the star's light has been passed through the prism, or diffracted from the grating of a spectroscope, these rays are separated one from another and arranged side by side in perfect order, ready for the observer to survey them and to determine which ones are present in superabundance and which other ones are lacking wholly or in part. The following comparison is a fair one: the ordinary point image of a star is as if all the books in the university library were thrown together in a disorderly but compact pile in the center of the reading room: we could say little concerning the contents and characteristics of that library; whether it is strong in certain fields of human endeavor, or weak in other fields. The spectrum of a star is as the same library when the books are arranged on the shelves in complete perfection and simplicity, so that he who looks may appraise its contents at any or all points. Let us consider the fundamental principles of spectroscopy.

1. When a solid body, a liquid, or a highly condensed gas is heated to incandescence, its light when passed through a spectroscope forms a continuous spectrum: that is, a band of light, red at one end and violet at the other, uninterrupted by either dark or bright lines.

2. The light from the incandescent gas or vapor of a chemical element, passed through a spectroscope, forms a bright line spectrum; that is, one consisting entirely of isolated bright lines, distributed differently throughout the spectrum for the different elements, or of bright lines superimposed upon a relatively faint continuous spectrum.

3. If radiations from a continuous spectrum source pass through cooler gases or vapors before entering the spectroscope, a dark line spectrum results: that is, the positions which the bright lines in the spectra of the vapors and gases would have are occupied by dark or absorption lines. These are frequently spoken of as Fraunhofer lines.

To illustrate: the gases and vapors forming the outer strata of the Sun's atmosphere would in themselves produce bright line spectra of the elements involved... Continue reading book >>




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