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

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was reflected into the instrument, as in my former series of observations, by means of a mirror and a small prism. The precaution was taken to verify the accuracy of the position of the spectrum of comparison relatively to that of the nebula, by placing a small lamp before the object-glass in the way already described.

The coincidence of the line in the nebula with the brightest of the lines of nitrogen, though now subjected to a much more severe trial, appeared as perfect as it did in my former observations. I expected that I might discover a duplicity in the line in the nebula corresponding to the two component lines of the line of nitrogen, but I was not able, after long and careful scrutiny, to see the line double. The line in the nebula was narrower than the double line of nitrogen ; this latter may have appeared broader in consequence of irradiation, as it was much brighter than the line in the nebula.

The following observations are suggestive in connexion with the point under consideration. Electrodes of platinum were placed before the object-glass in the direction of a diameter, so that the spark was as nearly as possible before the centre of the lens. The spark was taken in air. I expected to find the spectrum faint, for the reasons which have been stated in a previous paragraph, but I was surprised to find that only one line was visible in the large spectroscope when adapted to the eye-end of the telescope. This line was the one which agrees in position with the line in the nebula, so that under these circumstances the spectrum of nitrogen appeared precisely similar to the spectra of those nebulae, of which the light is apparently monochromatic. This resemblance was made more complete by the faintness of the line; from which cause it appeared much narrower, and the separate existence of its two components could no longer be detected. When this line was observed simultaneously with that in the nebula, it was found to appear but a very little broader than that line. When the battery circuit was completed, the line from the spark coincided so accurately in position with the nebular line, that the effect to the eye was as if a sudden increase of brightness in the line of the nebula had taken place. In order to make this observation, and to compare the relative appearance of the lines, the telescope was moved so that the light from the nebula occupied the lower half only of the slit. The line of the spark was now seen to be a very little broader than the line of the nebula, and appeared as a continuation of it in an unbroken straight line. These observations were repeated many times on several nights.

An apparent want of coincidence, which would be represented by 002 division of the head of the micrometer-screw, would be about the smallest difference that could be observed under the circumstances under which these observations were made. At the part of the spectrum where this line of nitrogen occurs, the angular interval measured by '02 division of the micrometer corresponds to a difference of wave-length of -0460 millionth of a millimetre.

At the time the comparisons were made the earth was receding from the part of the heavens in which the nebula is situated by about half its orbital velocity. If the velocity of light be taken at 185,000 miles per second, and the wave-length of the nitrogen

line at 50080 millionths of a millimetre, the effect of half the orbital motion would be to degrade the refrangibility of the line by 0*023, an alteration of wave-length which would correspond to about O'Ol of the large micrometer-head, an interval too small to be detected.

We learn from these observations, that if the line be emitted by nitrogen, the nebula is not receding from us with a velocity greater than ten miles per second; for this motion, added to that of the earths orbital velocity, would have caused a want of coincidence that could be observed. Further, that if the nebula be approaching our system, its velocity may be as much as twenty miles or twenty-five miles per second; for part of its motion of approach would be masked by the effect of the motion of the earth in the contrary direction.

The double line in the nitrogen-spectrum does not consist of sharply defined lines, but each component is nebulous, and remains of a greater width than the image of the slit*. The breadth of these lines appears to be connected with the conditions of tension and of temperature of the gas. Plucker^ states that when an induction-spark of great lieating-power is employed, the lines expand so as to unite and form an undivided band. Even when the.duplicity exists, the eye ceases to have the power to distinguish the component lines, if the intensity of the light be greatly diminished.

Though I have been unable to detect duplicity in the corresponding line in the nebula, it might possibly be found to be double if seen under more favourable conditions ; I incline to the belief that it is not double £.

In my Tables of the lines of the air I estimated the brightness of each of the components of the double line in the spectrum of nitrogen at 10, and the components of the double line next in brightness in the orange at 7 and 5, and those of a third double line on the less refrangible side of D at 6 and 4. It was with reference to these two double lines next in apparent brilliancy that I wrote ||, in speaking of the line in the nebula, If, however, this line were due to nitrogen, we ought to see other lines as well; for there are specially two strong double lines in the spectrum of nitrogen, one at least of which, if they existed in the light of the nebulae, would be easily visible.

As the disappearance of the whole spectrum of nitrogen, with the exception of the one double line, was unexpected, though, indeed, in accordance with my previous estimations, I examined the spectrum of nitrogen with a spectroscope furnished with one prism with a refracting angle of 60, in which the whole of the spectrum from C to G is included in the field of view. I then moved between the eye and the little telescope of the spectroscope a wedge of neutral-tint glass corrected for refraction by an inverted similar

* Secchi states that with his direct spectroscope this line in the annular nebula in Lyra appears double. As the image of the nebula is viewed directly, after elongation by the cylindrical lens, and without a slit, it is probable that the two lines may correspond to the two sides of the elongated annulus of the nebula.

f Philosophical Transactions, 1863, p. 13.

J On the Spectra of the Chemical Elements, Philosophical Transactions, 1864, p. 141.

Ibid. || Ibid. p. 443.

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