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

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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

4 e 2

it was proposed to seek for in this investigation. The observations of many nights have been rejected, from the uncertainty as to the possible existence of an accidental displacement.

Another inconvenience, so great as even to seem to diminish the hope of ultimate success, was found to arise from the difficulty of bringing the lower margin of the star-spec-trum into actual contact with the upper margin of the spectrum of the light reflected into the instrument. The lines in the spectra of the stars are not, on ordinary nights, so steady and distinct as are those of the solar spectrum. Under these difficult circumstances it is very desirable, as an assistance to the eye in its judgment of the absolute identity or otherwise of the position of lines, that the bright lines of comparison should not merely meet the dark lines in the star-spectrum, but that they should overlap them to a small extent. When the two spectra are so arranged as to be in contact, the eye is found to be influenced to some extent by the apparent straightness or otherwise of the compound line formed by the coincident, or nearly coincident lines in the two spectra. Owing to the unavoidable shortness of the collimator the lines in a broad spectrum are slightly curved. From this cause the determination of the identity of lines in spectra which are in contact merely is rendered more difficult, and it may be less trustworthy.

The difficulties of observation which have been referred to were in the first instance sought to be overcome by placing the spark before the object-glass of the telescope. In some respects this method appears to be unexceptionable, but there are disadvantages connected with it. The bright lines, under these circumstances, extend across the star-spectrum, and make the simultaneous observation of dark lines, which are coincident, or nearly so with them, very difficult. When the spark is taken between open electrodes, the consequent disturbance of the air in front of the object-glass is unfavourable to good definition. An important disadvantage arises from the great diminution in the brightness of the spark from the distance (10 feet) at which it is placed from the slit; since in consequence of its nearness to the object-glass, the divergence of the light from it is diminished in a small degree only by that lens. It is obvious that, by means of a lens of short focal length placed between the spark and the object-glass, the light from the spark might be rendered parallel or even convergent; but the adjustments of such a lens, so that the pencils transmitted by it should coincide accurately in direction with the optical axis of the telescope, would be very troublesome. When two Leyden jars, connected as one jar, were interposed, and the spark was taken in air between platinum points, there was visible in the spectroscope only the brightest of the lines of the air-spectrum, namely, the double line belonging to nitrogen, which corresponds to the principal line in the spectra of the gaseous nebulae. When a vacuum-tube containing hydrogen at a low tension was placed before the object-glass, the line corresponding to F was seen with sufficient distinctness, but the line in the red was visible with difficulty. Some observations, however, have been made with the spark arranged before the object-glass.

The following arrangement for admitting the light from the spark appeared to me to be free from the objections which have been referred to, and to be in all respects adapted

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