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

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found to coincide with the line of hydrogen, which corresponds to Fraunhofer’s F. The substance in the nebulae which is indicated by this line appears to be subject to much greater variation in relative brilliancy, or to be more affected by the conditions under which it emits light; for while the brightest line is always present, the line of which I am speaking seems to be wholly wanting in some nebulae, and to be of different degrees of relative brightness in some other nebulae.

In the nebula of Orion this line is relatively stronger than in 37 H. IV. Draconis, and some other nebulae. I have suspected that the relative brightness of this line varies slightly in different parts of this nebula. It may be estimated perhaps in the nebula of Orion at about the brightness of the second line. The second line suffers in apparent brilliancy from its nearness to the brightest line, and may, without due regard to this circumstance, be estimated as brighter than the third line.

In order to compare the position of the line with that of the corresponding line in the spectrum of hydrogen, I employed a vacuum-tube containing hydrogen at a very small tension, which was placed before the object-glass of the telescope. Under these conditions the line appears narrow, when the slit is narrow, without any sensible nebulosity at the edges. The character of the line is altered, as has been shown by Pl^cker, when hydrogen at the atmospheric pressure is employed; the line then expands into a nebulous band of considerable width, even with a very narrow slit. Such a condition of the line is obviously unsuitable for the delicate comparisons which it was proposed to attempt.

The narrow, sharply-defined line of hydrogen, when the vacuum-tube was before the slit, was observed to coincide perfectly in position with the third line of the nebula. This observation, which shows the coincidence of these lines with an accuracy three or four times as great as my former observations, increases in the same ratio the probability that the line in the nebula is really due to luminous hydrogen.

I suspect that although the third line in this nebula may impress the eye as strongly as the second line, yet it is not so narrow and well defined as that line. If this suspicion be correct, this condition of the line might indicate that the hydrogen exists at a rather greater tension than that in the so-called vacuum-tubes, but that it is not nearly so dense as would correspond to the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the earth. As, however, the character of the lines of hydrogen is also greatly modified by temperature it is not possible to reason with any certainty as to the state of things in this distant object, the light of which we have now under examination.

I am still unable to find any terrestrial line which corresponds to the middle line. I have made the additional observation that the line in the nebula is in a very slight degree less refrangible than the line of oxygen at 2060 of the scale of my map. It is in a rather larger degree less refrangible than the strong line of barium at 2075 of my scale.

Several other nebulae have been observed with the large spectroscope, I prefer, however, to re-examine these objects before I publish any observations of them.

4 F 2

§ IV. Observations .of Stars.

The chief difficulties which I have had to encounter have arisen from the unsteadiness of our atmosphere. There is sufficient light from stars of the first and second magnitude for the large spectroscope described in this paper, and so far as the adjustments of the instrument are concerned, the lines in the spectra of the stars would be well defined. Unless, however, the air is very steady, the lines are seen too fitfully to permit of any certainty in the determination of coincidences of the degree of delicacy which is attempted in the present investigation. I have passed hours in the attempt to determine the position of a single line, and have then not considered that the numerous observations which I had obtained were possessed, even collectively, of sufficient weight to establish with any certainty the coincidence of the line with the one compared with it.

I prefer, therefore, to reject a large number of observations which appear unsatisfactory from this cause, and to give in this place a very few of the most trustworthy of the observations which I have made.

Sirius.—The brilliant light of this star and the great intensity of the four strong lines of its spectrum, make it especially suitable for such an examination. The low altitude of this star in our latitude limits the period in which it can be successfully observed to about one hour on each side of the meridian.

I have confined myself to comparisons of the strong line in the position of F, with the corresponding line of the spectrum of hydrogen. My first trials were made with hydrogen at the ordinary atmospheric pressure; the width of the band of hydrogen, under these circumstances, was greater than the line of Sirius. This line in Sirius, from some cause, is narrower relatively to the length of the spectrum, when considerable dispersion and a narrow slit are employed, than when the image of the star, rendered linear by a cylindrical lens, is observed with a single prism*.

When the large spectroscope was employed I estimated the breadth of the line to be about equal to that of the double line D. In Kirchhoff’s map the line F of the solar spectrum is represented as a little more than one-fourth of the interval separating the lines D. When the spectroscope attached to the telescope was directed to the moon, the line F appeared even narrower than it is represented in Kirchhoff’s map; I estimated it at about one-sixth of the apparent breadth of the corresponding line in the spectrum of Sirius. The character of the line agrees precisely with Kirchhoff’s representation of the solar line F. It appears, as in the diagram, to be equally nebulous at both edges, and agrees in this respect precisely with the line of hydrogen under certain conditions of tension and temperature.

As it was obviously impossible to determine with the required accuracy the coincidence of the line of Sirius when the much broader band of hydrogen at the ordinary pressure was compared with it, I employed a vacuum-tube fixed before the object-glass. In all these observations the slit used was as narrow as possible. The air at the time of the present observations was more favourable than usual, and the line in Sirius was seen with

* See Philosophical Transactions, 1864, p. 42.

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