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

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a note from M. Fate, in which he suggests to me the prismatic examination of solar spots, since, according to his theory of the constitution of the sun, the spectrum of the umbra of a spot should be compound, consisting of a continuous spectrum with dark lines, and a second spectrum of bright lines. My first observations were made with a direct-vision spectroscope of Hofmann, which was so arranged that the image of the sun was formed upon the slit, after the light had been enfeebled by reflection from a prismatic solar eyepiece.

When, by means of the finder, a spot was brought upon the slit, the feeble light from the umbra appeared as a narrow dark band upon the bright solar spectrum. The lines of Fraunhofer appeared stronger and thicker in the spectrum of the umbra.

In October 1866, Mr. Lockyer, who had independently made similar observations, presented a paper to the Royal Society*, in which he states that he observed the lines of absorption of the solar spectrum to appear thicker where they crossed the spectrum of the spot. He also states that he saw no indication of the presence of bright lines.

It was not until April 15, 1868, that a favourable opportunity occurred to examine a large spot with the new spectroscope described in this paper.

The presence of some haze in the atmosphere permitted the spectroscope to be applied directly to the telescope, and the slit to be placed at the focus of the object-glass. The slit was rotated so that its length was in the direction of the length of the spot, and when the middle of the umbra fell upon the slit, its spectrum appeared as a feebly illuminated band upon the bright solar spectrum. The band appeared divided into two parts by the spectrum of the bright prominence, which extended nearly across the umbra.

The phenomenon of an increase of thickness of the lines of Fraunhofer, which I had previously observed, was very marked.

It was obvious that a part only of the light which appeared to form the spectrum of the umbra came from that particular region of the sun. The imperfect transparency of our atmosphere causes it to become strongly illuminated when the sun shines upon the earth; and the brilliant light which is seen to be radiated by it near the sun’s limb, is also radiated by that portion of the atmosphere which is between the observer and the sun. It might be, therefore, that the whole of the light which appeared to come from the umbra was really due to the illuminated intervening atmosphere. That such was not the case, and that some part of the light to which the spectrum was due came from the umbra, became evident when the telescope was moved so as to bring the sun’s limb across the slit; for then the spectrum of the light from our atmosphere was less bright than the spectrum of the umbra of the spot.

In order to obtain some estimate as to how much of the apparent light from the umbra really came from it, I made use of a graduated wedge of neutral-tint glass. The spectrum of our atmosphere at the sun’s limb became so dark that the lines could not be distinguished when the part of the wedge marked 10 was before the eye. To bring

* Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol. xv. p. 256.

the spectrum of the umbra to about the same degree of invisibility the wedge had to be moved until the part marked 20 came before the eye. A photometric examination of the wedge shows that the light intercepted at 10 is to that intercepted at 20 as 1 to 3, It may then be concluded that about three-fourths of the light which formed the spectrum of the umbra was really due to the umbra of the spot.

There were several bright granules on the umbra, but the spectra of these were seen distinct from that of the umbra. Each bright point as it came upon the slit gave a narrow spectrum like a bright thread extending along the dark spectrum of the umbra.

There still remained two sources of uncertainty. 1. In consequence of the mode in which the spectrum is formed, under similar conditions of the instrument, the dark lines should appear rather thicker when the light is feebler. 2. The increased thickness of the lines in the compound spectrum might be due to the light of the umbra, or to that of our atmosphere.

The uncertainty on both these points was removed by observing the feebler spectrum of the illuminated atmosphere near the sun’s limb. The lines in this spectrum, though they appeared very slightly stronger, were not so in a degree that could afford an explanation of the very marked increase of strength which most of them presented in the spectrum of the umbra. It seemed, therefore, satisfactorily determined that the light from the umbra had really suffered a more powerful absorption. The term umbra is used to include the cloudy stratum and the darker nucleus into which Mr. Dawes has shown the umbra of a spot may be usually resolved. It is probable that nearly the whole of the light under examination came from the part of the umbra known as the cloudy stratum. It was not possible to distinguish the spectra of these portions of the umbra.

The spectroscope was sufficiently powerful to show all the lines which are given in Kirchhoff’s maps.

I carefully examined the spectrum of the umbra with that of the adjoining parts of the solar surface from A to G, but I was not able to detect any line of absorption in the spectrum of the umbra which was not also present in that of the sun’s normal surface, or that any ordinary solar line was wanting in that of the umbra.

The increase of thickness, however, did not appear to take place in the same proportion for all lines. The lines C and F, due to hydrogen, appeared increased but very slightly, if indeed they were any thicker than would be due to a spectrum of feebler intensity. I incline to the opinion that these lines are not sensibly altered.

There is a small group of lines a little less refrangible than b, at 1601 to 1609, of Kirchhoff’s scale, and which in his map are marked as coincident with lines of chromium, which was especially noticeable from increased thickness. That this circumstance was not connected with any peculiarity of the spot under examination is shown by a similar observation having been made on other spots.

Fig. 3, Plate XXXIII. represents the appearance of the double line D in the spec-

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