Huggins, Maxwell, 1868 //Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 158 (1868)

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by a clock-motion. As even on nights of unusual steadiness the lines in the spectra of the stars are necessarily, for several reasons, more difficult of minute discrimination of position than are those of the solar spectrum, it is important that the apparatus employed should give an ample amount of dispersion relatively to the degree of minuteness of observation which it is proposed to attempt.

In 1866 I constructed a spectroscope for the special objects of research described in this paper, which was furnished with three prisms of 60 of very dense flint glass. The solar lines were seen with great distinctness. I found, however, that, in order to obtain a separation of the lines sufficient for my purpose, an eyepiece magnifying ten or twelve diameters was necessary. Under these circumstances the stellar lines were not seen in the continued steady manner which is necessary for the trustworthy determination of the minute differences of position which were to be observed. After devoting to these observations the most favourable nights which occurred during a period of some months,

I found that if success was to be obtained, it would probably be with an apparatus in which a larger number of prisms and a smaller magnifying power were employed.

The inconvenience arising from the pencils, after passing through the prisms, crossing those from the collimator when more than three or four prisms are employed, and also, in part, the circumstance that I had in my possession two very fine direct-vision prisms on Amicis principle, which had been made for me by Hofmann of Paris, induced me to attempt to combine in one instrument several simple prisms with one or two compound prisms which give direct vision. An instrument constructed in this way, as will be seen from the following description, possesses several not unimportant advantages*.

a is an adjustible slit; b an achromatic collimating lens of 4-5 inches focal length ;

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c represents the small telescope with which the spectrum is viewed. The train of prisms

* [An apparatus in many respects superior to the one here described has been constructed since.October 1868.]

consists of two compound prisms, d and e, and three simple prisms, f, g, h. Each of the compound prisms contains five prisms, cemented together with Canada balsam. The shaded portions of the diagram represent the position of the two prisms of very dense flint glass in each compound prism. The compound prism marked e is much larger than the other, and is permanently connected with the telescope c, with which it moves. These compound prisms, which were made specially to my order by Hofmann, are of great perfection, and produced severally a dispersion fully equal to two prisms of ordinary dense flint glass. The prisms/and g were cut for me from a very fine piece of dense glass of Guinand by Messrs. Simms, and have each a refracting angle of 60. The prism h was made by Mr. Browning from the dense flint glass manufactured by Messrs. Chance, this prism has a refracting angle of 45. The great excellence of all these prisms is shown by the very great sharpness of definition of the bright lines of the metals when the induc-tion-spark is taken before the slit, even when considerable magnifying power is employed on the small telescope with which the spectrum is viewed. The instrument is provided with a second collimator, of which the object-glass has a focal length of 18 inches.

The compound prism e is so fixed that it can be removed at pleasure, when the total dispersive power of the instrument is reduced from about six and a half prisms of 60, to about four and a half prisms of 60. The facility of being able to reduce the power of the instrument has been found to be of much service for the observation of faint objects, and also on nights when the state of the atmosphere was not very favourable.

The telescope with which the spectrum is viewed is carried by a micrometer-screw, which, however, has not been employed for taking measures of the spectra, but only for the purpose of setting the telescope to the part of the spectrum which it is intended to observe. This precaution is absolutely necessary when nebulae are observed which emit light of two or three refrangibilities only.

For the purpose of the simultaneous comparisons of the light of the heavenly bodies with the lines of the terrestrial elements, the slit was provided, in the usual way, with a small prism placed over one half of it, which received the light reflected upon it from a small mirror placed opposite the electrodes. The plan of observation formerly employed, and which is described in the paper On the Spectra of some of the Fixed Stars, was adopted to ensure perfect accuracy of relative position in the instrument between the star-spectrum and the spectrum to be compared with it, since it is possible by tilting the mirror to alter within narrow limits the position of the spectrum of the terrestrial substance relatively to that of the star. Before commencing an observation, a small alcohol-lamp, in the wick of which bicarbonate of soda was placed, was fixed before the object-glass of the telescope, and then the mirror and the electrodes were so adjusted that the components of the double line D were exactly coincident in both spectra.

This plan was soon found to be very inconvenient, and even in some degree untrustworthy for the more delicate comparisons which were now attempted. An unobserved accidental displacement of the spark, or of the mirror, might cause the two spectra to differ in position by an amount equal to the whole extent of want of coincidence which

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