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mated that about three-fifths of all were conformable. During
the next hour there was an evident increase in this ratio.

During the first three hours four persons saw severally 116,
98, 82, and 96 ; one saw in 8^ hours 99. This gives a mean of
82 per hour for each observer, which is 20 per cent of the num-
ber seen by the whole party. From half past two o'clock on-
ward the mean hourly numlier for one person, as deduced from
the reports of ten of the party, was about 88, that is, about 18
per cent of the whole.

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B. A. Newton on Shooting Stars in November, 1866. 81

If we compare tbe obseryations of the two nights, we see
that the greater brilliancy of the meteors on the second night
made the proportion seen by single observers to be greater. At
the same time there was a much greater uniformity in the tallies
reported. This is reasonable, for when the meteors are faint we
may rightly expect a large personal equation. The average nam-
ber of observers for the two nights was probably about fourteen.
The mean of the proportions seen by single observers for the
two portions of the two nights was about 17 per cent. Hence
we may say that with. such observers, such meteors, and such
modes of observing, as we had on these two nights, fourteen
persons will see about six times as many as one person. I think
It probable that even so large a party loses a third, or more than
a third, of the meteors that could be seen by an indefinite num*
ber of observers, especially when the flights are in general faint.

While the general position of the radiant on the second night
would seem to be the same as that given on the first night, some
stars moved from points nearer y Leonis. Several paths pro-
duced loackward would cut the line joining y and s Leonis within
two or three degrees of the former star. I saw, however, no

Eath that could not be referred to a radiant area of narrow
readth in latitude. In longitude its length would have to be
three or four degrees, unless we admit, as Prof. Twining sup-
poses, that there is a motion of the radiant. Prof. Hewitt of
Olivet, Mich., ^ves a number of paths for the first night that
seem to proceed from a point nearer y than «.

2. At New Haven. — Upon the roof of Sheffield Hall a party
of about ten students, under the direction of Prof. Lyman,
counted 608 meteors in five hours, from 12 o'clock onward, on
the morning of the 18th of November. The following is the
result of their obseryations for the successive quarter hours.

12K-lh. lh.2l>. ih-Zh, Z^^-AK 4h-5h.












, ,









88 108 129 155 183

On the next night a similar party in the same place counted
492 meteors between eleven and two o'clock, omitting the quar-
ter hour between 11** 16™ and IP 80". This is a mean of 179
per hour. The following table gives the results.

llh-12h. 12h-lb. lh-2h.

19 48 42

48 53

81 56 52

38 50 55

Hourly mean 117 202 202

▲m. Joob. Soi.— Sbcond Ssbibs, Vofc. XLIII, No. 127.— Jajt., 1S67.

11 Digitized by Google

82 H. A. Newton on Shooting Stars in November, 1866.

These results agree as well perhaps as could be expected with
those of the party on Graduates* Hall. A considerable number
of paths were drawn upon the charts upon both evenings which
will serve to determine the altitude, lengths, &c., of the trajec-
tories, if the same have been observed elsewhere.

8. At New Haven. — ^Prof. Twining watched alone on the morn-
ing of Nov. 14th, giving special attention to the lengths of the
paths, the duration of the flights, and the position and size of
the radiant area. He says : " from midnight to 1** A.M., looking
toward Leo, I observed 85 shooting stars, in one hour, and in an
area of about 110° of arc laterally, and 70° vertically. Of these
there were 24 conformable from an area of radiation about 8°
in diameter, whose center was in N.P.D. 65i° and A.R 147^"^.
Two-thirds of all were directed nearly from this center. The
sky was very clear. The conformable meteors were rather mas-
sive, with tracks about 1' broad. Three were much broader, and
left trains for 2" to 6» of time. The two longest flights that I
observed were 20° and 22° of arc and about 1" in time.

"Again I watched from 8*» 8"* A.M. to 4*^ 8™ A.M., or one hour.
In a space equal to the former and looking toward the radiant
I saw 43 meteors, of which 88 were conformable to an area cov-
ering nearly the bend of the Sickle, — but far the greater number
radiating closely from the small star in its middle, being the old
radiant of Nov. 13th, 1833. The flights were generally from S""
to 15° long, and the longest 22° in -7" of time. The average of
the 62 conformable flights, for the two hours, was about 10° of
arc, in •5» of time. But the flights of the earlier hour were
shorter than those of the later, while the times were longer. It
is of course true that the velocity of meteors must be retarded by
the gaseous medium in which their visible paths are developed.
The force of this medium, condensed before their masses, is so
great that, not unfrequently, a curve, or even an angle is de-
scribed in a meteor's path. These sudden deviations — ^as well
as the frequent explosions — may often be due to the meteor's
passage from the secondary atmosphere of the earth (allowing this
really to exist, as I have formerly suggested, and being com-
posed, perhaps, of aqueous vapor) into its atmosphere proper.*

** Better means of determining the radiant — or rather the lines
of flight — than the unaided eve affords are now necessary. The
best I have thought of would be a conical shell mounted upon
a pillar and rotated by clock work, like a telescope. The cone
should have its axis directed to the presumed radiant, — its oppo-
site elements spreading, say 90°, — its apex truncated to an open-
ing but little greater in circle than the pupil of the eye, and its
larger circle, or base, traversed by wires divergent from its cen-
ter, at equal intervals, and these last supporting and normally

♦ This Journal, [2], xxrii, 20.

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J7. A. Newton on Shooting Stars in November, 1866, 63

cat by a system of circular wires showing equal intervals of
arc when viewed from the apex, — the whole combination ap-
pearing to the observer like the meridian lines and circles of
polar distance in a stereographio polar projection. The open
oase may be slightly illuminated if the wires are not su£Giciently
visible against the sky.

" With this apparatus adjusted to a proper position of the axis^
it is obvious that conformable meteors wul traverse lines, along
or between the divergent wires ; and that the inclinations to the
wires can be closely estimated, as well as the distances from the
center at which the prolonged paths would pass. At the same
time the parallel circles would, if properly disposed and desig-
nated, am>rd a scale to mark the beginning and the end of
flights with the best attainable accuracy. The intersection of
selected standard stars by the wires might be agreed upon, in
common, to fix a Dosition for the axes of the shells, in all places
where they shoula be employed for comparative observations,
although, if the axial position were ascertained in each case,
that uniformity would not be indispensable.''

4. At PhtTadelphia.—OTi the morning of the 18th M^r. B. V,
Marsh saw in a half hour ending at 1^ 40°^, 2 conformable mete*
ors and 6 others ; in a half hour ending at 4^ 86*°, 6 conf. and 3
others. The weather was clear and bright The number for the
hour (16) corresponds with the number (18) for single observers
on that night at New Haven. On the next morning Mr. Marsh
saw in 86 minutes, between 12^ and 1^, 28 conf. and 6 unconf,
meteors. Later in the morning the sky was mostly overeast.

5. At Newark^ N. J. — Mr. 0. G. Eockwood, on the night of
Nov. 12th-lSth, watched from 10»» 45« to 2*» 80" a. m., omitting
the quarter hour from 12^ 45°^ to 1^. The sky was clear except
a haze near the horizon. The following table gives the results.

Conf. Nonconf. Total.

From 10^ 46"^ to 11*» 0«^,



"11 3 " 12 0,




" 12 ** 12 46,




** 1 " 2 0,




** 2 «* 2 30,




Total in 3*" 27'°, 29 56 65

On the next night, with four assistants, he watched fi^m ll^^
20° to 2^ 40", counting 261 meteors, as follows :







20»-12^» 0»




in 40™


-12 30


















- 2 30






30-2 40









in 2^ 50«

Digitized by CjOOgIC

84 JET A. Newton on Shooting Stars in November, 1866.

For a good part of the time it was cloady in the south and
southwest and also low down in the northeast. After 2^ A. M.
the clouds increased rapidly and soon covered the sky.

6. At Poitghkeepsie^ N. i. — Seven of the pupils of Miss Maria
Mitchell saw, at the Yassar Collie Observatory, 354 meteors in
seven hours on the night of Nov. 12th-18th, and on the next
night 419 were seen by six of them in five hours.

Y. At Oanonsburg, Pa. — Prof. Kirkwood reports 64 seen by
six persons in 46 minutes, ending at 4^ 89"^ A. M. of the ISth, of
which about 60 were from Leo. The next night was cloudy.

8. At Franklin, X. F.— Mr. William A. Anthony, with two
assistants, counted on the morning of the 14th, between 2^ and
4t^j 180. On account of the cold it was impossible to stand still
and watch the heavens, and one hour, or an hour and a quarter
at most, would, he thinks, include the time they were watching.

9. At Cambridge, Mass. — Mr. F. W. Russell watched during
several evenings in the first Half of November. He has plotted
60 or 70 flights, which were remarkable for size or beauty, and
reports 876 in all. The details have not yet been received.

10. At Chicago, 111. — Mr. Francis Bradley reports 27 meteors
seen by three persons in one hour ending at 2^ 80"* on the morn-
ing of Nov. 12th. On the next night five observers saw in the
hour and a half ending at P A. H., 66 meteors, of which 24
were from Leo. Cloads or hazeprevented further observation.

11. At OUvet, Mich. — Prof. J. H. Hewitt, to whom on account
of his previous experience in observing I had written request-
ing particular attention to the shape of the radiant area, watched
on tne night of Nov. 12th-18th, together with Mr. M. B. Oaines,
from 11 to 6 o'clock. The night was mostly clear. He says:
'* of those which went from the Sickle, the tracks of the larger
number, I think, were in the general direction of a line joining
7 and «, and these tracks were much nearer together than the
tracks of those which proceeded in a direction perpendicalar to
that line. That is, supposing an ellipse to represent the radiant
area, the larger diameter would be m the direction of y«. We
frequently remarked that our observations coincided with your
suspicions that the radiant area would be such an ellipse."

12. At Detroit, Mich.— Mr. O. B. Wheeler reports 66 for three
observers for one hour from 2^ 20™ A. M. Nov. 13th. Forty-two
were conformable. Clouds prevented observation on other nights.

18. Mr. Charles G. Boerner of Vevay, Ind., sends a chart upon
which he has recorded the paths of meteors observed on the
mornings of the 12th and the 18th. The next night was cloudy.

14. At Iowa City, Iowa. — A party of students of the Iowa
State Uiniversity, under the direction of Prof. Hinrichs, watched
through the nights of Nov. 12th and Nov. 18th. During the
first of these two nights the sky was mostly clouded except from

Digitized by


JT. A. Newton on Shooting Stars in November ^ 1866. 95

.iboat one to three o'clock A.M., where it was pretty clear over-
heid. Thirty -five meteors were seen, of which twenty-two were
in the hoars named. Three persons were observing.

On the next night, Nov. 13th~-14th, it was partially overeast
«otil near 10 o'clock. The number seen was 440. The hourly
number, the number of observers, and the state of the sky^ are
^ven in the following table.

Time: Na obt. No. weo. Sky.

8i]>- di'* 8 4 Cloudy.

^ -10^ Z 8 Partly clear.

10^ >11^ 8 7 Somedooda

Ili-IH 4 61 Clear.

Time. No. obe. No. aeen. Sky.
12^b.i^h 4 90 Clear.

H 'H 5 112 Clear.

Si -Zi 6 188 Clear.

8i -4i 6 20 Cloading.

Soon after 8^^ a.h. the sky became wholly overcast The next
night the skv was also entirely covered.

15. At Washington, D, C. — Observations were made at the
TJ. S. Naval Observatory which will soon be published in full.

16. In Bay of Panama, — Mr. Frank H. Bradlev writes to Prof.
Twining, that with about a quarter of the sky clear he counted
eleven meteors between P 45" and 2** 80™ a.m. on the morning
^f Nov. 13th. The sky then became overcast.

On the next morning he was on deck from 2^ to S^ a.m., and
in that time counted 80 meteors, 17 of which seemed to be ra-
diant from a point near the horizon in the N.N.E. The sky
was clear from N.E. to N. W. and a little past the zenith, but
about 8^ A.M. the clouds closed entirely.

On the night of the 14th-15th he was on deck for some time,
with much clear sky, but saw no meteors.

17. I am indebted to Prof Henry, who has kindly placed in
my hands for examination the reports received by the Smith-
Bonian Institution from various observers.

Pro£ Hopkins of Williams College gives the times of 205
meteors on the night of the 12th-13th, of 458 on the next night,
and 4 on the third night. The apparent paths of a large pro-
portion of them is also given. Tne following are the numbers
for the successive hours.







Before 7^






7'»- 8



1 -2











3 -4









11 -12



6 -S



Between ll*" 80« P.M. and 2^ 15™ A.M. of the first night the
clouds interfered seriously, and sometimes even covered the sky.
This series of observations will no doubt prove to be of special
Taloe for the computation of altitudes.

The reports received by the Smithsonian Institution from a
lai^e ncimber of other observers will be of viJue for the same

Digitized by V^OOOlC

66 H, A. Newton on Shooting Start in November, 1666.

18. Two meteors deserve special notice. One at 11*> 7™, Nov.
18th, appeared at New Haven low in the Lynx, and passing a
little north of the zenith, crossed Andromeda between « and ^,
jand disappeared low in the S.W. having described a path of
135^. I was at first a bright point, but after a time burst oat
into a flame and left a train for several seconds. The duration
of flight was called four seconds. At Newark and Philadelphia
the same star described a similar long arc. At Williamstown it
appeared 6® from Mars towards Canis Minor, and ended i° S.
of Diphda; duration 7 seconds. These data give the first alti-
tude 88 miles (142 kilometers), the least altitude 66 miles (106
km.)) and the length of the path, according to the Williams-
town observation, 826 miles. It must have passed beyond Diph-
da, however, as seen from that place, since it disappeared in the
S.W. at Philadelphia. Seven seconds for 825 miles gives 46
miles per second for the velocity, a result probably too great.

19. At 11 minutes past 2 o'clock a.m., Nov. 14th, a very bright
green (or blue) meteor appeared, at New Haven, in RA. 148°,
Dec. +164"^, and went to RA. 143^°, Dec. +9^ leaving a train
about 4° long. This train floated away 8° to the north in a path
parallel to the horizon, being visible for 9 minutes. Before dis-
appearance it had become shorter and broader so as to be 2° or
8^ long and 1^° broad.

The same meteor was seen in Newark by Mr. 0. G. Rockwood
to descend vertically, ending at RA. IBS'*, Dec. +15J°. The
cloud or train floated also northward, parallel to the horizon,
crossing ^ Leonis. A corresponding patn is given by Mr. Henry
M. Parkhurst of Brooklyn.

At Williamstown the record was " origin 20** south of Eegu-
lus: course W.S.W. ; length 40°; blue trail."

The first altitude was then about 120 miles (193 km.), the alti'
tude at disappearance about 60 miles (97 km.), and the length
of path 115 miles.

The cloud as seen from Newark bent up as is usual with such
trains, while at New Haven it only grew shorter and broader, a
result doubtless of perspective. The meteor's distance firom
New Haven at disappearance was 120 miles, and the cloud was
doubtless still farther from us. Hence its length must have
been more than 5 miles and its breadth over 8 miles. The true
motion of the cloud was northward, at right angles to the mo-
tion of the meteor, being in nine minutes at least 17 miles, and
probably about 20. It was evidently due to a current in the at-
mosphere, whose velocity was about 125 miles per hour.

Tne material of the meteor must have been considerable in
order to have filled several cubic miles with its debris. And
yet this debris must have been very attenuated to float in an
atmosphere so light as that which is 60 or 90 miles from the
earth's surface.

Digitized by


H. A. Newton on Shooting Stars in November ^ 1866. 87

20. The great display which was looked for with such general
interest both in this country and in England was witnessed in
Europe early on the morning of the 14th.

At ValentiOy Ireland. — The following is an extract from a letter
from Dr. B. A. Gould, who was at Valentia, Ireland, engaged
in determining the longitude of American stations by means of
the Atlantic cable.

" At 12^ 30" (Greenwich time) meteors were so abundant that I caused
the telegraphic staff to be aroused, in confident expectation of a * mete-
oric shower.' From this time to about 2^ 25"^ a.m. the sky was quite
clear (except for six or seven minutes), not more than one-fourth part
being at any one time obscured. At 1^ a.m. the sky was brilliant with
meteors of every degree of brightness, from the 4th magnitude to 15'
diameter, and the brilliancy of Jupiter. The largest ones, and certainly
there were fifteen or twenty such, were as brilliant and large as a ship s
rocket at half a mile distance.

^ The comparatively slow and uniform movement of most of them, their
]ong bright trains, and pure white lights presented a strong resemblance
to a flight of rockets.

^ The center of divergence was in Leo, then not high in the east. The
radiant was not well defined, but a locus of probably a degree and a half
in diameter. I think that I observed ten or twelye of which the paths
produced would form tangents to such a circle.* Dtpng the whole dis-
play I saw but two unconformable meteors, both of them faint. * *

"Between 12*^ 39°^ 0» and 1^ 6"^ 0» I counted 310. * * * With the
aid of a friend, who faced south while I faced north, I counted 203 dur-
ing the 90 seconds between 1** 9° 0" and 1** 10"* 30". Ten minutes later
the frequency seemed to have much diminished.

" At 1** 38™ there were not more than 66 or 10 to the minute, and
frequently five or six seconds would pass without any being seen.

"Between l^ 46°* 16* and 1** 46°* 16» (1"*) only 23 were seen.
" 1 49 " 1 61 (2») " 22 "
1 68 " 2 1 (3») "17 "

"At 2** 15° they seemed scarcely more numerous th^n on an ordinary
August night."

21. In Exeter^ England. — Mr. J. T. Tucker, of Exeter, in a
letter to the writer states that he counted 954 meteors between
12h 30™ and 1^ 80« a,m. of Nov. 14th.

22. At Manchester, England. — Mr. Joseph Baxendell, F.R. A.S.,
devoted special attention to the place of the radiant, and the
time of the maximum. He gives for the former, RA. 149° 38',
Dec. +22° 57' '5, which is the mean of a number of observations.
For the time of maximum frequency he gives 1** 12™ a.m. (Gr.
time), and thinks that the probable error cannot exceed one
minute. He saw the shower of 1833, being then at sea off the
west coast of Central America, and says that the present display

* A diagram gives the oentar of this circle as about R.A. 148^, Dec. +28i^.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

88 H. A, Newton on Shooting Stan in November, 18M.

was &r inferior to the former, both in the number of meteors
seen and in the brilliancy of the larger ones."^

23. At Oreenwich. — According to an extract from the London
Herald^ the hourly numbers seen at the Greenwich obeervatojy
were as follows :

d**-10^ 10 meteors,

10 -11 15 •*

11 -12 168 "

12*-1^ 2032 meteon,

1 -2 4860 "

2 -3 832 •*

8^-4^ 528 meteon.
4-6 40 *

ToUl, 8486 •*

24. Thiclmeis of the group, — ^The inclination of the plane of
the group to the ecliptic is probably about twice the latitude of
the radiant, or 19°. The denser part of the shower was induded
in a period of about 1^ 80>" ; and during this time the earth
movea about 100,000 miles. The corresponding thickness of
the group would be 100,000 sin 19^ or 38,000 miles. The den-
sity gradually diminishes as we leave the center of the group,
and tne thickness, including these rarer portions would be much

25. Geographical limits of the shower. — The sun was vertical at
12»» 30« A.M. (Gr. time) in E. Ion. 168^°, S. lat. 18^°. If this
time be taken for the beginning of the shower as a great dis-
play, and if 10° be allowed for twilight, a line crossing the
equator in E. leu. 68i° and running ]N. ISJ® E. separated day-
light from darkness and forms the eastern limit beyond which
the shower was not probably visible.

The radiant waB vertical at 2^ A.K. (which may be taken for
the end of the shower) in K lat. 23i°, E. Ion. 65°. The west-
ern limit would be a great circle of which that point is a pole,
to wit, a line crossing the equator in W. Ion. 25 , and running
N. 23J® W. This line passes from Newfoundland through the
center of the two Atlantic oceans. Begions west of this line
were behind the earth throughout the shower. Along this line
a few nieteors with long paths were probably visible.

26. If there shall be a shower in Nov. 1867 (and it is quite
probable that there will be one), and if the group lies sensibly
m a plane, these limiting lines would be removed 90° or 100°
westward. But what curves in the line of the group have been
produced by the perturbing action of the earth, of Jupiter, and of
the other planets we cannot say. Such curves apparently exists
and may change the time of maximum, and therefore the re-
gion in which the shower may be expected next November.

When full and authentic reports from English astronomers
shall be received I hope to resume the subject.

* PMC Man. Lit and Pha Soc, vi, SI.

Digitized by


Carre$pondence of /• Nicklh. 89

Abt. XJIL—Cbrre$p<mden€e of Prof. Jerome Nicklbs, daUd
Nancy, October 2dj 1866.

Obituary: Hermann OoJdtckmidi^ the Astronomer. — The subject
of this notice attained to a considerable reputation as an artist,
but he is better known to the scientific world, in which he held
a high position, by his numerous discoveries among the heavenly

He was born June 17th, 1802, but during his whole life his
health was delicate. Destined at first to commerce, he quitted
it to devote himself to painting, and early became distinguished
in that career. He was, however, ignorant of his true vocation
until he had attained the age of forty-five years. One of his
friends. Dr. Hoefer, to whom we are indebted for these details,
tells us the circumstances under which he became an astronomer.
The recital is copied from Goldschmidt himself. " I had just re-
turned,'' says he, '' full of disgust from a very long sojourn in
England. I tried in innumerable ways to dissipate my melan-
choly humor, but without success, when one day I chanced to
attend LeVerrier's lecture on astronomy. The professor ex-
plained an eclipse of the moon which was to take place the
same evening (March 31st, 1847). I understood the explana-
tion, and in my enthusiasm I exclaimed ancK to son. From that
moment I commenced with ardor to study a science of which I
had as yet only the feeblest notions."

Three years after, Nov. 15th, 1852, Qoldschmidt discovered,
with a small glass which he had just bought, a planet which re-
ceived from Arago the name of Luietia, having the brightness
of a star of the 10th magnitude. The 26th of October he dis-

Online LibraryJohn AlmonThe American journal of science and arts → online text (page 10 of 102)