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

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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

to meet the requirements of the case. In place of the small prism, two pieces of silvered glass were securely fixed before the slit at an angle of 45°. In a direction at right angles to that of the slit, an opening of about inch was left between the pieces of glass for the passage of the pencils from the object-glass. By means of this arrangement the spectrum of a star is seen accompanied by two spectra of comparison, one appearing above, and the other below it. As the reflecting surfaces are about 0-5 inch from the slit, and the rays from the spark are divergent, the light reflected from the pieces of glass will have encroached upon the pencils from the object-glass by the time they reach the slit, and the upper and lower spectra of comparison will appear to overlap to a small extent the spectrum formed by the light from the object-glass. This condition of things is of great assistance to the eye in forming a judgment as to the absolute coincidence or otherwise of lines. For the purpose of avoiding some inconveniences which would arise from glass of the ordinary thickness, pieces of the thin glass used for the covers of microscopic objects were carefully selected, and these were silvered by floating them upon the surface of a silvering solution. In order to ensure that the induction-spark should always preserve the same position relatively to the mirror, a piece of sheet gutta percha was fixed above the silvered glass; in the plate of gutta percha, at the proper place, a small hole was made of about inch in diameter. The ebonite clamp containing the electrodes is so fixed as to permit the point of separation of these to be adjusted exactly over the small hole in the gutta percha. The adjustment of the parts of the apparatus was made by closing the end of the adapting-tube, by which the apparatus is attached to the telescope, with a diaphragm with a small central hole, before which a spirit-lamp was placed. When the lines from the induction-spark, in the two spectra of comparison, were seen to overlap exactly, for a short distance, the lines of sodium from the light of the lamp, the adjustment was considered perfect. The accuracy of adjustment has been confirmed by the exact coincidence of the three lines of magnesium with the component lines of b in the spectrum of the moon.

In some cases the spectra produced by the spark are inconveniently bright for comparison with those of the stars and nebulae. If the spark is reduced in power below a certain point, many of the lines are not then well developed; the plan, therefore, was adopted of diminishing the brightness of the spectrum, by a wedge of neutral-tint glass which can be moved at pleasure between the plate of gutta percha and the silvered mirror.

Two eyepieces were employed with the apparatus, the one magnifying four diameters, and the other six diameters.

The induction-coil was the same which I employed in my former observations. It was excited by a form of bichromate-of-potash battery, which I have found so exceedingly convenient for the occasional work of celestial observations that I will describe it here.

The battery, which was made for me by Mr. Ladd, consists of two large cells of ebonite, each of which contains two plates of graphite, 6 inches by inches, connected

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