Michelson A. A. Light waves and their uses (1903)

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Action of’Magnetism on Light Waves 125

glass would be one and one-half times as great, so that the difference in path would beJ25,000 waves. But the resolving power is the order of spectrum multiplied by the number of plates. If we are observing, therefore, in the 25,000th spectrum, and there are thirty such plates, the resolving power would be 750,000; whereas the resolving power of the best gratings is about 100,000.

There are, however, disadvantages in the use of this instrument. One of these may be illustrated as follows: Suppose we take the case of the ordinary grating; the first spectral image is rather widely separated from the central image of the slit, the second spectral image is twice as far away as the first, and the third spectral image will start three times as far away as the first, and will also be three times as long. The result is that parts of the second and third overlap. The overlapping becomes greater and greater as the order of the spectrum increases, so that when the 25,000th spectrum is reached the spectra are inextricably confused. Where we have to deal with a few simple radiations, however, as in cadmium or sodium, this overlapping is not so serious as might be supposed. We have a very simple means of getting rid of the worst of it by analyzing the light by means of a prism before it enters the pile of plates.

The construction of the instrument is not very different from that of the ordinary spectroscope. The light passes through a slit and then through a lens, by which it is made parallel. It then passes through the pile of plates—the echelon, as it has been named—and into the observing telescope. With this instrument the results obtained by the method of visibility curves have been confirmed. Thus Fig. 81 shows the appearance of the green mercury line in the field of view of the echelon when the source is in a strong magnetic field. In the three central components the vibra


Light Waves and Their Uses

tions are horizontal, while in the outer three on both sides the vibrations are vertical. An idea of the power of this instrument can be obtained by comparing Fig. 81 with Fig. 80, which gives the appearance of the line as seen in the best grating spectroscope.


1. The investigation of the changes produced in the radiations of substances by placing them in the magnetic field is in general a phenomenon barely within the range of the best spectroscopes, and there are some features of it which it would be entirely hopeless to attack by this method.

2. Such investigations, however, are precisely the kind for which the interference method is particularly adapted. In fact, the results of the investigation by the method of visibility curves have furnished a number of new and interesting developments which could only with difficulty have been obtained by the ordinary spectrometer methods.

3. Fertile as this method has shown itself to be, there are, nevertheless, a number of serious drawbacks. In order to obviate these a new instrument was devised, the echelon spectroscope, which has all the advantages of the grating spectroscope, together with a resolving power many times as great. With the aid of this instrument all the preceding deductions have been amply verified and a number of new and interesting facts added to the store of our knowledge of the Zeeman effect.