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satellite, we have the whole series of transformations undergone by the
celestial powers from the first days of the universe.

The sun seems lost amidst the immensities of the stellar universe, and
yet it is related, by actual theories of science, to the nebula of the
Milky Way. Centre of a world, and small as it appears amidst the
ethereal regions, it is still enormous, for its size is 1,400,000 times
that of the earth. Around it gravitate eight planets, struck off from
its own mass in the first days of creation. These are, in proceeding
from the nearest to the most distant, Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars,
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Between Mars and Jupiter circulate
regularly other smaller bodies, the wandering _débris_, perhaps, of a
star broken up into thousands of pieces, of which the telescope has
discovered eighty-two at present. Some of these asteroids are so small
that they could be walked round in a single day by going at a gymnastic
pace.

Of these attendant bodies which the sun maintains in their elliptical
orbit by the great law of gravitation, some possess satellites of their
own. Uranus has eight, Saturn eight, Jupiter four, Neptune three
perhaps, and the Earth one; this latter, one of the least important of
the solar world, is called the Moon, and it is that one that the
enterprising genius of the Americans means to conquer.

The Queen of Night, from her relative proximity and the spectacle
rapidly renewed of her different phases, at first divided the attention
of the inhabitants of the earth with the sun; but the sun tires the
eyesight, and the splendour of its light forces its admirers to lower
their eyes.

The blonde Phoebe, more humane, graciously allows herself to be seen in
her modest grace; she is gentle to the eye, not ambitious, and yet she
sometimes eclipses her brother the radiant Apollo, without ever being
eclipsed by him. The Mahommedans understood what gratitude they owed to
this faithful friend of the earth, and they ruled their months at 29-1/2
days on her revolution.

The first people of the world dedicated particular worship to this
chaste goddess. The Egyptians called her Isis, the Phoenicians Astarte,
the Greeks Phoebe, daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and they explained
her eclipses by the mysterious visits of Diana and the handsome
Endymion. The mythological legend relates that the Nemean lion traversed
the country of the moon before its apparition upon earth, and the poet
Agesianax, quoted by Plutarch, celebrated in his sweet lines its soft
eyes, charming nose, and admirable mouth, formed by the luminous parts
of the adorable Selene.

But though the ancients understood the character, temperament, and, in a
word, moral qualities of the moon from a mythological point of view, the
most learned amongst them remained very ignorant of selenography.

Several astronomers, however, of ancient times discovered certain
particulars now confirmed by science. Though the Arcadians pretended
they had inhabited the earth at an epoch before the moon existed, though
Simplicius believed her immovable and fastened to the crystal vault,
though Tacitus looked upon her as a fragment broken off from the solar
orbit, and Clearch, the disciple of Aristotle, made of her a polished
mirror upon which were reflected the images of the ocean - though, in
short, others only saw in her a mass of vapours exhaled by the earth, or
a globe half fire and half ice that turned on itself, other _savants_,
by means of wise observations and without optical instruments, suspected
most of the laws that govern the Queen of Night.

Thus Thales of Miletus, B.C. 460, gave out the opinion that the moon was
lighted up by the sun. Aristarchus of Samos gave the right explanation
of her phases. Cleomenus taught that she shone by reflected light.
Berose the Chaldean discovered that the duration of her movement of
rotation was equal to that of her movement of revolution, and he thus
explained why the moon always presented the same side. Lastly,
Hipparchus, 200 years before the Christian era, discovered some
inequalities in the apparent movements of the earth's satellite.

These different observations were afterwards confirmed, and other
astronomers profited by them. Ptolemy in the second century, and the
Arabian Aboul Wefa in the tenth, completed the remarks of Hipparchus on
the inequalities that the moon undergoes whilst following the undulating
line of its orbit under the action of the sun. Then Copernicus, in the
fifteenth century, and Tycho Brahe, in the sixteenth, completely exposed
the system of the world and the part that the moon plays amongst the
celestial bodies.

At that epoch her movements were pretty well known, but very little of
her physical constitution was known. It was then that Galileo explained
the phenomena of light produced in certain phases by the existence of
mountains, to which he gave an average height of 27,000 feet.

After him, Hevelius, an astronomer of Dantzig, lowered the highest
altitudes to 15,000 feet; but his contemporary, Riccioli, brought them
up again to 21,000 feet.

Herschel, at the end of the eighteenth century, armed with a powerful
telescope, considerably reduced the preceding measurements. He gave a
height of 11,400 feet to the highest mountains, and brought down the
average of different heights to little more than 2,400 feet. But
Herschel was mistaken too, and the observations of Schroeter, Louville,
Halley, Nasmyth, Bianchini, Pastorff, Lohrman, Gruithuysen, and
especially the patient studies of MM. Boeer and Moedler, were necessary
to definitely resolve the question. Thanks to these _savants_, the
elevation of the mountains of the moon is now perfectly known. Boeer and
Moedler measured 1,905 different elevations, of which six exceed 15,000
feet and twenty-two exceed 14,400 feet. Their highest summit towers to a
height of 22,606 feet above the surface of the lunar disc.

At the same time the survey of the moon was being completed; she
appeared riddled with craters, and her essentially volcanic nature was
affirmed by each observation. From the absence of refraction in the rays
of the planets occulted by her it is concluded that she can have no
atmosphere. This absence of air entails absence of water; it therefore
became manifest that the Selenites, in order to live under such
conditions, must have a special organisation, and differ singularly from
the inhabitants of the earth.

Lastly, thanks to new methods, more perfected instruments searched the
moon without intermission, leaving not a point of her surface
unexplored, and yet her diameter measures 2,150 miles; her surface is
one-thirteenth of the surface of the globe, and her volume
one-forty-ninth of the volume of the terrestrial spheroid; but none of
her secrets could escape the astronomers' eyes, and these clever
_savants_ carried their wonderful observations still further.

Thus they remarked that when the moon was at her full the disc appeared
in certain places striped with white lines, and during her phases
striped with black lines. By prosecuting the study of these with greater
precision they succeeded in making out the exact nature of these lines.
They are long and narrow furrows sunk between parallel ridges, bordering
generally upon the edges of the craters; their length varied from ten to
one hundred miles, and their width was about 1,600 yards. Astronomers
called them furrows, and that was all they could do; they could not
ascertain whether they were the dried-up beds of ancient rivers or not.
The Americans hope, some day or other, to determine this geological
question. They also undertake to reconnoitre the series of parallel
ramparts discovered on the surface of the moon by Gruithuysen, a learned
professor of Munich, who considered them to be a system of elevated
fortifications raised by Selenite engineers. These two still obscure
points, and doubtless many others, can only be definitely settled by
direct communication with the moon.

As to the intensity of her light there is nothing more to be learnt; it
is 300,000 times weaker than that of the sun, and its heat has no
appreciable action upon thermometers; as to the phenomenon known as the
"ashy light," it is naturally explained by the effect of the sun's rays
transmitted from the earth to the moon, and which seem to complete the
lunar disc when it presents a crescent form during its first and last
phases.

Such was the state of knowledge acquired respecting the earth's
satellite which the Gun Club undertook to perfect under all its aspects,
cosmographical, geographical, geological, political, and moral.




CHAPTER VI.

WHAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE AND WHAT IS NO LONGER ALLOWED TO BE
BELIEVED IN THE UNITED STATES.


The immediate effect of Barbicane's proposition was that of bringing out
all astronomical facts relative to the Queen of Night. Everybody began
to study her assiduously. It seemed as if the moon had appeared on the
horizon for the first time, and that no one had ever seen her in the sky
before. She became the fashion; she was the lion of the day, without
appearing less modest on that account, and took her place amongst the
"stars" without being any the prouder. The newspapers revived old
anecdotes in which this "Sun of the wolves" played a part; they recalled
the influence which the ignorance of past ages had ascribed to her; they
sang about her in every tone; a little more and they would have quoted
her witty sayings; the whole of America was filled with selenomania.

The scientific journals treated the question which touched upon the
enterprise of the Gun Club more specially; they published the letter
from the Observatory of Cambridge, they commented upon it and approved
of it without reserve.

In short, even the most ignorant Yankee was no longer allowed to be
ignorant of a single fact relative to his satellite, nor, to the oldest
women amongst them, to have any superstitions about her left. Science
flooded them; it penetrated into their eyes and ears; it was impossible
to be an ass - in astronomy.

Until then many people did not know how the distance between the earth
and the moon had been calculated. This fact was taken advantage of to
explain to them that it was done by measuring the parallax of the moon.
If the word "parallax" seemed new to them, they were told it was the
angle formed by two straight lines drawn from either extremity of the
earth's radius to the moon. If they were in doubt about the perfection
of this method, it was immediately proved to them that not only was the
mean distance 234,347 miles, but that astronomers were right to within
seventy miles.

To those who were not familiar with the movements of the moon, the
newspapers demonstrated daily that she possesses two distinct movements,
the first being that of rotation upon her axis, the second that of
revolution round the earth, accomplishing both in the same time - that is
to say, in 27-1/3 days.

The movement of rotation is the one that causes night and day on the
surface of the moon, only there is but one day and one night in a lunar
month, and they each last 354-1/3 hours. But, happily, the face, turned
towards the terrestrial globe, is lighted by it with an intensity equal
to the light of fourteen moons. As to the other face, the one always
invisible, it has naturally 354 hours of absolute night, tempered only
by "the pale light that falls from the stars." This phenomenon is due
solely to the peculiarity that the movements of rotation and revolution
are accomplished in rigorously equal periods, a phenomenon which,
according to Cassini and Herschel, is common to the satellites of
Jupiter, and, very probably to the other satellites.

Some well-disposed but rather unyielding minds did not quite understand
at first how, if the moon invariably shows the same face to the earth
during her revolution, she describes one turn round herself in the same
period of time. To such it was answered - "Go into your dining-room, and
turn round the table so as always to keep your face towards the centre;
when your circular walk is ended you will have described one circle
round yourselves, since your eye will have successively traversed every
point of the room. Well, then, the room is the heavens, the table is the
earth, and you are the moon!"

And they go away delighted with the comparison.

Thus, then, the moon always presents the same face to the earth; still,
to be quite exact, it should be added that in consequence of certain
fluctuations from north to south and from west to east, called
libration, she shows rather more than the half of her disc, about 0.57.

When the ignoramuses knew as much as the director of the Cambridge
Observatory about the moon's movement of rotation they began to make
themselves uneasy about her movement of revolution round the earth, and
twenty scientific reviews quickly gave them the information they wanted.
They then learnt that the firmament, with its infinite stars, may be
looked upon as a vast dial upon which the moon moves, indicating the
time to all the inhabitants of the earth; that it is in this movement
that the Queen of Night shows herself in her different phases, that she
is full when she is in opposition with the sun - that is to say, when the
three bodies are on a line with each other, the earth being in the
centre; that the moon is new when she is in conjunction with the
sun - that is to say, when she is between the sun and the earth; lastly,
that the moon is in her first or last quarter when she makes, with the
sun and the earth, a right angle of which she occupies the apex.

Some perspicacious Yankees inferred in consequence that eclipses could
only take place at the periods of conjunction or opposition, and their
reasoning was just. In conjunction the moon can eclipse the sun, whilst
in opposition it is the earth that can eclipse him in her turn; and the
reason these eclipses do not happen twice in a lunar month is because
the plane upon which the moon moves is elliptical like that of the
earth.

As to the height which the Queen of Night can attain above the horizon,
the letter from the Observatory of Cambridge contained all that can be
said about it. Every one knew that this height varies according to the
latitude of the place where the observation is taken. But the only zones
of the globe where the moon reaches her zenith - that is to say, where
she is directly above the heads of the spectators - are necessarily
comprised between the 28th parallels and the equator. Hence the
important recommendation given to attempt the experiment upon some point
in this part of the globe, in order that the projectile may be hurled
perpendicularly, and may thus more quickly escape the attraction of
gravitation. This was a condition essential to the success of the
enterprise, and public opinion was much exercised thereupon.

As to the line followed by the moon in her revolution round the earth,
the Observatory of Cambridge had demonstrated to the most ignorant that
it is an ellipse of which the earth occupies one of the foci. These
elliptical orbits are common to all the planets as well as to all the
satellites, and rational mechanism rigorously proves that it could not
be otherwise. It was clearly understood that when at her apogee the moon
was farthest from the earth, and when at her perigee she was nearest to
our planet.

This, therefore, was what every American knew whether he wished to or
no, and what no one could decently be ignorant of. But if these true
principles rapidly made their way, certain illusive fears and many
errors were with difficulty cleared away.

Some worthy people maintained, for instance, that the moon was an
ancient comet, which, whilst travelling along its elongated orbit round
the sun, passed near to the earth, and was retained in her circle of
attraction. The drawing-room astronomers pretended to explain thus the
burnt aspect of the moon, a misfortune of which they accused the sun.
Only when they were told to notice that comets have an atmosphere, and
that the moon has little or none, they did not know what to answer.

Others belonging to the class of "Shakers" manifested certain fears
about the moon; they had heard that since the observations made in the
times of the Caliphs her movement of revolution had accelerated in a
certain proportion; they thence very logically concluded that an
acceleration of movement must correspond to a diminution in the distance
between the two bodies, and that this double effect going on infinitely
the moon would one day end by falling into the earth. However, they were
obliged to reassure themselves and cease to fear for future generations
when they were told that according to the calculations of Laplace, an
illustrious French mathematician, this acceleration of movement was
restricted within very narrow limits, and that a proportional diminution
will follow it. Thus the equilibrium of the solar world cannot be
disturbed in future centuries.

Lastly there was the superstitious class of ignoramuses to be dealt
with; these are not content with being ignorant; they know what does not
exist, and about the moon they know a great deal. Some of them
considered her disc to be a polished mirror by means of which people
might see themselves from different points on the earth, and communicate
their thoughts to one another. Others pretended that out of 1,000 new
moons 950 had brought some notable change, such as cataclysms,
revolutions, earthquakes, deluges, &c.; they therefore believed in the
mysterious influence of the Queen of Night on human destinies; they
think that every Selenite is connected by some sympathetic tie with each
inhabitant of the earth; they pretend, with Dr. Mead, that she entirely
governs the vital system - that boys are born during the new moon and
girls during her last quarter, &c., &c. But at last it became necessary
to give up these vulgar errors, to come back to truth; and if the moon,
stripped of her influence, lost her prestige in the minds of courtesans
of every power, if some turned their backs on her, the immense majority
were in her favour. As to the Yankees, they had no other ambition than
that of taking possession of this new continent of the sky, and to plant
upon its highest summit the star-spangled banner of the United States of
America.




CHAPTER VII.

THE HYMN OF THE CANNON-BALL.


The Cambridge Observatory had, in its memorable letter of October 7th,
treated the question from an astronomical point of view - the mechanical
point had still to be treated. It was then that the practical
difficulties would have seemed insurmountable to any other country but
America; but there they were looked upon as play.

President Barbicane had, without losing any time, nominated a working
committee in the heart of the Gun Club. This committee was in three
sittings to elucidate the three great questions of the cannon, the
projectile, and the powder. It was composed of four members very learned
upon these matters. Barbicane had the casting vote, and with him were
associated General Morgan, Major Elphinstone, and, lastly, the
inevitable J.T. Maston, to whom were confided the functions of
secretary.

On the 8th of October the committee met at President Barbicane's house,
No. 3, Republican-street; as it was important that the stomach should
not trouble so important a debate, the four members of the Gun Club took
their seats at a table covered with sandwiches and teapots. J.T. Maston
immediately screwed his pen on to his steel hook and the business began.

Barbicane opened the meeting as follows: -

"Dear colleagues," said he, "we have to solve one of the more important
problems in ballistics - that greatest of sciences which treats of the
movement of projectiles - that is to say, of bodies hurled into space by
some power of impulsion and then left to themselves."

"Oh, ballistics, ballistics!" cried J.T. Maston in a voice of emotion.

"Perhaps," continued Barbicane, "the most logical thing would be to
consecrate this first meeting to discussing the engine."

"Certainly," answered General Morgan.

"Nevertheless," continued Barbicane, "after mature deliberation, it
seems to me that the question of the projectile ought to precede that of
the cannon, and that the dimensions of the latter ought to depend upon
the dimensions of the former."

J.T. Maston here interrupted the president, and was heard with the
attention which his magnificent past career deserved.

"My dear friends," said he in an inspired tone, "our president is right
to give the question of the projectile the precedence of every other;
the cannon-ball we mean to hurl at the moon will be our messenger, our
ambassador, and I ask your permission to regard it from an entirely
moral point of view."

This new way of looking at a projectile excited the curiosity of the
members of the committee; they therefore listened attentively to the
words of J.T. Maston.

"My dear colleagues," he continued, "I will be brief. I will lay aside
the material projectile - the projectile that kills - in order to take up
the mathematical projectile - the moral projectile. A cannon-ball is to
me the most brilliant manifestation of human power, and by creating it
man has approached nearest to the Creator!"

"Hear, hear!" said Major Elphinstone.

"In fact," cried the orator, "if God has made the stars and the planets,
man has made the cannon-ball - that criterion of terrestrial speed - that
reduction of bodies wandering in space which are really nothing but
projectiles. Let Providence claim the speed of electricity, light, the
stars, comets, planets, satellites, sound, and wind! But ours is the
speed of the cannon-ball - a hundred times greater than that of trains
and the fastest horses!"

J.T. Maston was inspired; his accents became quite lyrical as he chanted
the hymn consecrated to the projectile.

"Would you like figures?" continued he; "here are eloquent ones. Take
the simple 24 pounder; though it moves 80,000 times slower than
electricity, 64,000 times slower than light, 76 times slower than the
earth in her movement of translation round the sun, yet when it leaves
the cannon it goes quicker than sound; it goes at the rate of 14 miles a
minute, 840 miles an hour, 20,100 miles a day - that is to say, at the
speed of the points of the equator in the globe's movement of rotation,
7,336,500 miles a year. It would therefore take 11 days to get to the
moon, 12 years to get to the sun, 360 years to reach Neptune, at the
limits of the solar world. That is what this modest cannon-ball, the
work of our hands, can do! What will it be, therefore, when, with twenty
times that speed, we shall hurl it with a rapidity of seven miles a
second? Ah! splendid shot! superb projectile! I like to think you will
be received up there with the honours due to a terrestrial ambassador!"

Cheers greeted this brilliant peroration, and J.T. Maston, overcome with
emotion, sat down amidst the felicitations of his colleagues.

"And now," said Barbicane, "that we have given some time to poetry, let
us proceed to facts."

"We are ready," answered the members of the committee as they each
demolished half-a-dozen sandwiches.

"You know what problem it is we have to solve," continued the president;
"it is that of endowing a projectile with a speed of 12,000 yards per
second. I have every reason to believe that we shall succeed, but at
present let us see what speeds we have already obtained; General Morgan
can edify us upon that subject."

"So much the more easily," answered the general, "because during the war
I was a member of the Experiment Commission. The 100-pound cannon of
Dahlgren, with a range of 5,000 yards, gave their projectiles an initial
speed of 500 yards a second."

"Yes; and the Rodman Columbiad?" (the Americans gave the name of
"Columbiad" to their enormous engines of destruction) asked the
president.

"The Rodman Columbiad, tried at Fort Hamilton, near New York, hurled a
projectile, weighing half a ton, a distance of six miles, with a speed
of 800 yards a second, a result which neither Armstrong nor Palliser has
obtained in England."

"Englishmen are nowhere!" said J.T. Maston, pointing his formidable
steel hook eastward.

"Then," resumed Barbicane, "a speed of 800 yards is the maximum obtained
at present."

"Yes," answered Morgan.

"I might add, however," replied J.T. Maston, "that if my mortar had not
been blown up - "

"Yes, but it was blown up," replied Barbicane with a benevolent gesture.
"We must take the speed of 800 yards for a starting point. We must keep



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