Imágenes de páginas

stellations, the number that can be seen at a time, by the naked eye, is not above a thousand.

Since the introduction of telescopes, indeed, the number of the fixed stars has been justly considered as immense ; because the greater perfection we arrive at in our glasses, the more stars always appear to us. Mr. Flamsteed, late royal astronomer at Greenwich, has given us a catalogue of about three thousand stars, which is the most complete that has hitherto appeared. Halley observed three hun dred and fifty more in the southern hemisphere.



THE immense distance of the fixed stars from

our earth, and from one another, is of all considerations the most proper for raising our ideas of the works of God. The star nearest to us, and consequently the largest in appearance, is the doga ftar, or Sirius. · Modern discoveries make it probable, that each of these fixed stars is a fun, having worlds revolving round it, as our fun has the earth and other planets revolving round him. So that, perhaps, there are as many systems of worlds, as there are fixed stars in the expanse of heaven. Now the dog-star appears twenty-seven thousand times less than the sun; and, as the distance of the stars must be greater as they seem less, mathematicians have compufed the distance of Sirius from us to be two billions and two hundred thousand millions of miles,

there from * The keep of the bear.

The motion of light, therefore, which, though: fo quick as to be commonly thought instantaneous, takes up more time in travelling from the stars to us, than we do in making a West India voyage, A found would not arrive to us from thence in fifty thousand years ; which, next to light, is considered as the quickest body we are acquainted with. And a cannon-ball, flying at the rate of four hundred and eighty miles an hour, would not reach us in seven bundred thousand years.





HE first people, who paid much attention to

tħe fixed stars, were the shepherds in the beaue tiful plains of Egypt and Babylon; who, partly

froin amusement, and partly with a view to direct them in travelling during the night, observed the situation of these celestial bodies. Endowed with a lively fancy, they divided the stars into different companies or constellations, each of which they supposed to represent the image of fome animal, os other terrestrial object.

The peasants in our own country do the same thing; for they distinguish that great northern cone stellation, which philosophers call the Ursa Major, by the name of the Plough, the figure of which it may certainly reprefent with a very little help froin the fancy

But the constellations, in general, have preserved the names, which were given them by the ancients. They are reckoned twenty-one northern, and twelve Southern ; but the moderns have increased the nume ber of the northern to thirty-six, and of the southern to thirty

NORTHERN CONSTELLATIONS, The Little Bear, the Great Bear, the Dragon, the Greyhounds, Bootes *, and Mons Menelaus : Cea phæust, Berenice's Hair, Charles's Heart, the North ern Crown, Hercules I, and Cerberus : Tbe. Harpa the Swan, the Fox, the Goose, the Lizard, Casiopeia, and Perseus : Andromeda, the Great Triangle, the Little Triangle, Auriga, Pegasus *, the Dolphin, and the Arrow : The Eagle, Serpentarius, the Serpent, Sobieski's Shield, Camelopardus, and the Colt: Antinous, the Lynx, the Little Lion, and Musca.

A King of Ethiopia. | With his club watching the dragon.


The Whale, the River Eridanus, the Hare, Orion, the Great Dog, and the Little Dog : The Ship Argo, Hydra, the Centaur, the Cup, the Crow, the Wolf, and the Altar: the Southern Crown, the Southern Fish, the Phenix, the Crane, and the Peacock : Noah's Dove, the Indian, the Bird of l'aradife, Charles's Oak, the Southern Triangle, and the Fly or Bee : the Swallow, the Cameleon, the Flying Fish, the American Goose, the Water Serpent, and the Sword Fish.

Some of the principal stars have particular names given them, as Aldebaram, in the Bull's Eye ; Regulus, or the Lion's Heart; Arelurus, in Bootes ; Syrius, in the Great Dog; Spica, or the Ear of Corn, in Virgo ; Pleiades, or the Seven Sturs.

Besides the stars, visible to the naked eye, there is a very remarkable space in the heavens, called the Galaxy, or Milky Way. This is a broad circle

* Or the Flying Horse.


of a whitish hue, like milk, going quite round !, whole heavens, and consisting of an int... ber of small stars, visible through a tulci. though not discernible by the naked eye.



BESIDES the above-mentioned, there are twelve

Signs or constellations in the Zodiac, as it is called from a Greek word fignifying an animal, because each of these twelve represents some animal. The line in the middle of the Zodiac is called the Ecliptic; because eclipses happen in or near that line. It is called Via Solis, the * sun's annual path, or way, through the heavens. But in astronomy it is that circle, or path, which the earth would describe to an eye, placed in the centre of the system, viz. the fun. It is divided into twelve equal parts,

Properly speaking, however, it ought to be called the earth's yearly path through the heavens.


« AnteriorContinuar »