W. L. (William Larkin) Webb.

Brief biography and popular account of the unparalleled discoveries of T.J.J. See .. online

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developed the Capture Theory of Cosmical Evolution, based on the
general principle of the independent formation of the nuclei of all
bodies at a great distance and their gradual aggregation into sys-
tems, under the clustering power of universal gravitation, by
which the attendant bodies are added to the central masses about
which they now revolve as satellites, planets, components of
double and multiple stars and clusters.

4. This New Foundation for Cosmogony is proved to be a
Fundamental Law of Nature, operating uniformly throughout the
sidereal universe. Under repulsive forces cosmical dust is ex-
pelled from the stars and diffused throughout space for the forma-
tion of new nebulae, as it gradually collects into clouds under the
influence of universal gravitation; and the condensation of the
nebulae produces sidereal systems of every description, from the
very lowest to the very highest order. This dual process of repul-
sion and attraction, involving the mutual interaction of Nature's
chief forces, makes possible the development of a New Science of
the Stars.

5. From the tabular data* calculated by Babinet's criterion
it is clear that no such phenomena as the detachment of Laplacean
rings or zones of vapor in the solar nebula ever took place; but
on the contrary, the planets were added on to the sun and
the satellites added on to their several planets, the nuclei in
every case having originated in the distance, and subsequently
approached the centers about which they now revolve.

6. And when it was discovered that the roundness of the
planetary orbits had arisen from the secular action of a nebular
resisting medium, a new ground became available for concluding
that the nuclei of the planets were formed by accretion at a great
distance from the sun; and as they neared that center, by the
growth of the sun's mass and by the tangential resistance to their

* The table is given on p. 168.


orbital motion, their orbits were made rounder and rounder, till
they so much resembled circles as to lead the Greek philosophers
to infer that the Deity had chosen this supposed perfect geometri-
cal figure for the paths of the heavenly bodies.

7. Now the drawing in of the planets from a great distance
towards the sun requires the building up of the central mass, to
accomplish this narrowing up of the system; and such growth of
the sun's mass would naturally follow from the destruction of
millions of myriads of comets passing very near the sun in perihe-
lion and by their disintegration giving a resisting medium of cosmi-
cal dust for building up the planets, and decreasing the major
axes and eccentricities of their orbits.

8. What therefore can the comets be but survivals of the
ancient nebula out of which the solar system has been built up?
Fortunately this logical inference is confirmed by Stromgren's
celebrated investigations showing that all the cometary orbits
are elliptical; and thus they come to us from a distant "home",
which was also the birthplace of the nuclei of the planets.

9. It will be observed that the process of development here
outlined is always from the outside towards the center diamet-
rically opposite to the abandoned doctrine of the throwing off of
rings and zones of vapor, which has in fact no existence in Nature.

10. And this principle of formation in the distance and
building up towards the center by the transfer of matter from the
periphery towards the interior regions is fully verified in all types
of systems, from the satellites and planets, to the double and
multiple stars and clusters and star-clouds of the Milky Way.

11. Upon this secure basis of observation and known cen-
tripetal tendency of universal gravitation, the Capture Theory is
seen to be a logical development of the Clustering Power of gravita-
tion noticed by Herschel to be moulding the figures of nebulae and
clusters throughout the sidereal universe.

12. As intimated in the first section of the paper on the
"Dynamical Theory of the Globular Clusters," the problem of n
bodies, under ideal dynamical conditions, remains forever beyond


the power of the most general methods of analysis; but the dynam-
ical theory of clusters gives us the one secular solution of this prob-
lem found under actual conditions -in nature. For when n is
of the order of 1,000, so as to give rise to a cluster, the Clustering
Power observed by Herschel operates to exhaust the mutual poten-
tial energy of the system, and bring about increasing accumulation
in the center, so that the cluster finally unites into a single mass
of enormous magnitude. Probably the giant stars of the type of
Canopus and Arcturus have arisen in this way.

13. And since attendant bodies of every class as satel-
lites, planets, comets, double and multiple stars tend every-
where to approach the centers about which they revolve, as an
inevitable effect of the growth of the central masses and of the
action of the resisting medium over long ages, it follows that the
secular solution of the problem of clusters is more or less valid for
all cosmical systems. They finally end by the absorption of the
attendant bodies in the central masses which now govern their

14. The dynamical theory of globular clusters shows that
the Clustering Power inferred by Herschel is nothing else than the
action of universal gravitation; and that it operates on all sidereal
systems, but does not produce the cumulative effect which Her-
schel ascribed to the ravages of time inside of millions of ages.

15. The globular clusters are formed by the gathering to-
gether of stars and elements of nebulosity from all directions in
space; and this points to the expulsion of dust from the stars of
the Milky Way, and its collection about the region of the forma-
tion in such manner as to give essential symmetry in the final
arrangement of the cluster, which doubtless has some motion of
rotation, and originally a tendency to spiral movement.

16. The stars and smaller masses are captured by the mutual
action of the other members of the cluster, and worked down
towards the center of the mass. This gives a central density in
excess of that appropriate to a sphere of monatomic gas in con-
vective equilibrium (A.N., 4053, and A.N., 4104).


17. The density of the clusters is greater on the outer border
than in a globe of monatomic gas, which shows that stars are still
collecting from the surrounding regions of space. The starless
aspect of the remoter regions about clusters is an effect of the
ravages of time, as correctly inferred by Herschel in the course of
his penetrating sweeps of the starry heavens.

18. And just as clusters under the mutual gravitation of
the component stars contract their dimensions, with time, chiefly
owing to the growth of the central masses, so also do other systems,
whether the mass-distribution be single, giving a system made up
of a sun and planets, or double, triple and multiple, giving binary,
triple or multiple stars, or sidereal systems of still higher order.
The tendency everywhere is from a wider to a narrower distribu-
tion of the large bodies; while the only throwing off that ever
occurs is of particles driven away from the stars by the action of
repulsive forces.

19. The orbits of the stellar and planetary systems are
decreased by the growth of the central masses and rounded up
by the action of the nebular resisting medium. And in like man-
ner all clusters tend to assume spherical or globular figures, so as
to justify the expression of Plato, that the Deity always geom-
etrizes; or Newton's remark that the agency operating in the
construction of the solar system was "very skilled in mechanics
and geometry. "

20. Newton required the intervention of the Deity to give
the planets revolving motion in their orbits, because in the absence
of repulsive forces he could not account for the dispersion of the
matter, so as to produce the tangential motions actually observed.
By means of the theory of repulsive forces, however, it is now
possible to explain these projectile motions, which Herschel like-
wise pointed to as the chief agency for the preservation of sidereal
systems. The only assumption necessary is an unsymmetrical
figure of the primordial nebula, giving a whirling motion about
the center as the system develops; and since the dust gathers
from all directions it is certain that this lack of perfect sym-


inetry will nearly always develop, as we see also by the spiral

21. It is this unsymmetrical form of the spiral nebulae pro-
duced by the gathering of the dust from the stars, or the slight
relative tangential motion of stars formed separately but finally
made to revolve together as a binary system, that gives the binary
stars the projectile forces, with which they are set revolving in
their orbits. In no case have they resulted from the rupture
of a rotating mass of fluid under conditions of hydrostatic pressure,
as formerly believed by Darwin, Poincare and See.

22. Even if the rotation could become rapid enough to pro-
duce a separation, under conditions of hydrostatic pressure, by
rupture of a figure of equilibrium, there would still be the equal
or greater difficulty of explaining the origin of the primitive rapid
rotation. This last difficulty escaped our notice till we came to
assign the cause of rotations, and found that mechanical throwing
off was impossible under actual conditions in nature. It is there-
fore recognized, from the definite proof furnished by Babinet's
criterion in the solar system, that such a thing as a throwing off
never takes place; but that all planetary and stellar bodies are
formed in the distance, and afterwards near the centers about
which they subsequently revolve.

23. This gives us a Fundamental Law of the Firmament the
planets being added on the sun, the satellites added on to their planets,
the moon added on to the earth, and the companions added on to the
double and multiple stars which is now found to be beautifully
confirmed by the dynamical theory of the globular clusters. It is not
often that such a great Law of Nature can be brought to light, and it is
worthy of the more consideration from the circumstance that it ex-
plains all classes of stellar systems by a single general principle.

24. And just as the clustering power of gravitation follows
from the Newtonian law of attraction, so on the other hand are
repulsive forces required throughout Nature to produce the pri-
mordial dispersion of dust for the subsequent condensation of this
nebulosity into stars and systems.


25. Returning now to the solar system, and noticing this
building up of the central masses from without, we find that of
the many small bodies crossing the orbits of the planets, some
have been captured and made satellites, most of them revolving
direct, but a few revolving retrograde.

26. By the preponderance of direct revolving satellites, and
the collision of such masses with the planets, their globes are given
direct rotations on their axes; and their obliquities thus tend to
disappear, as in the typical case of Jupiter, with an obliquity of
only three degrees.

27. The satellites therefore were originally independent
planets revolving in regular elliptical orbits about the sun; and
what is true of the satellites generally is true necessarily of the
satellite of our earth. The moon therefore is a captured planet.

28. All these satellites are now much nearer their centers
of motion than when first captured; for the planetary masses have
grown as their satellites revolved in the nebular resisting medium
which so beautifully rounded up their orbits.

29. The resisting medium implies collisions of the larger
bodies with smaller ones, and thus the craters and maria on the
moon bear witness to the terrible impacts involved in the creative
processes by which the present beautiful order of the solar system
was developed.

30. Similar impacts once indented the terrestrial globe, and
the depressions now occupied by our oceans arose from the larger
of these catastrophes. But since the atmosphere and oceans
developed, geological changes have modified the earth by destroy-
ing the original craters and building up mountains formed by the
sea and therefore running as great walls along the margin of the
oceans, as in the typical case of the Andes in South America.

31. The mass of the sun still is growing, and thus there is a
small secular acceleration of the sun, as first inferred by Euler in
1749, which was recently confirmed by Dr. Cowell's researches
on the records of ancient eclipses, handed down by the Greeks and


32. In the same way the ancient eclipses show an outstand-
ing secular acceleration of the mean motion of the moon amount-
ing to 2".0 per century. This is observational proof that the
moon still is nearing the earth, and it points directly to the capture
of our satellite at an epoch some 400 million years ago.

33. The mass of the excessively brilliant helium stars may
be decreasing, because more matter is carried away by repulsive
forces than is gathered in by universal gravitation; but eventu-
ally a balance will be attained, and when the solar stage is reached,
and the mass increases, the attendant planets will have their mean
motions accelerated as in the solar system.

34. The increase of the central mass alone may draw the
planets nearer, but nothing can decrease the eccentricities of their
orbits except motion in a resisting medium, as has been shown by
the researches of Lehmann-Filhes and Stromgren, (A.N., 3,479-80;
A.N., 3,897).

35. The resisting medium is proved to pervade all space
by the nebulosity shown on the background of Barnard's magnifi-
cent photographs of the Milky Way, and by the phenomena of
variable stars, which are thus fully explained. In the related
phenomena of temporary stars the collisions are intense enough
to produce violent conflagrations, and therefore are with attendant
bodies of the order of planets or very large Comets.

36. As the moon is a captured planet, it is evident that the
earth never did rotate much, if any, faster than at present; and
the theories ascribing to the moon a terrestrial origin advanced
by Lord Kelvin and Sir George Darwin in 1879 must therefore be
unconditionally given up. Their reasoning was justifiable at the
time, but is now recognized to be vitiated by a false premise, and
thus is one of the most singular deceptions in the history of

37. When the great Euler in 1749 inferred that the planets
had originated far from the sun, he anticipated to some slight
extent the theory held today. But the appearance of the rings
of Saturn, and the roundness of the orbits of the planets and satel-


lites caused Laplace to develop the theory of detachment by rota-
tion, from very oblate figures of equilibrium as first calculated by
Newton. This unjustifiable inference long proved deceptive, and
made it impossible to develop a Science of Cosmogony based on the
actual processes of Nature.

38. From the original extent of the solar system it is now
evident that other planets exist beyond Neptune; and that the
present planetary system is of vast extent, otherwise Neptune's
orbit would not be so perfectly round as it is observed to be.

39. And just as the light of our moon is variable, owing to
the craters and maria by which the surface is covered, so also the
variability of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn must be ascribed
to the same cause. The roundness of the orbits of the satellites
shows that they have suffered innumerable collisions with smaller
masses; and naturally they too are covered with craters and maria
which produce the variability in their light established by the
photometric researches of Guthnick.

40. The observed smaller eccentricity for spectroscopic than
for visual binary stars is in accord with the modern Capture Theory ;
for as the bodies near the center so as to become spectroscopic
binaries their orbits are more and more rounded up, and thus in
contracting they acquire small eccentricity.

41. The arrangement observed in triple stars, with the
close companion well within the orbit of the remote companion,
is the outgrowth of stable movements surviving, while unstable
ones have been destroyed, as in the solar system, and generally
throughout the sidereal universe.

42. The central accumulation of stars in clusters is the out-
growth of the Capture Process, slowly gathering in masses from
without, just as Jupiter gathers the passing comets within his
own orbit.

43. As sidereal systems of lower order are conserved by pro-
jectile forces, it is probable that the clusters likewise have a spiral
motion of rotation, with similar projectile forces tending to coun-
teract simple progressive collapse. The period of the orbital


revolution of the stars of a cluster is found to be common to all,
without regard to the dimensions of the elliptical orbits described,
and thus the whole system may have a common period of oscilla-
tion, after which the initial condition is perfectly restored. This
possibility in the dynamics of a cluster is exceedingly wonderful,
and results from the central attraction depending directly on the

44. The equality of brightness in star clusters shows that
some process of compensation between the attractive and repul-
sive forces has produced stars of wonderful uniformity of luster.
Thus the present investigation confirms the previous researches
on the evolution of the stellar systems, which have laid the founda-
tions for a new science of the starry heavens.

45. Accordingly, the Capture Theory of Cosmical Evolution
being now firmly established for the clusters, where the nature of
the process is entirely clear, it becomes at once a guide to us in
dealing with systems of lower order; and we see that the Law of
Nature is uniform and everywhere the same the large bodies work-
ing in towards the centers of attraction, while the only throwing
off that ever takes place is of small particles driven out of the stars
by the action of repulsive forces. All planetary bodies are formed
in the distance, and have their orbits reduced in size by increase
of the central masses, and rounded up by moving in a resisting
medium. This is a perfectly general law of the sidereal universe. It
verifies the early conjectures of Plato and Newton as to the stability
of the order of the world, and shows that these illustrious philosophers
were quite justified in concluding that the Deity always geometrizes.

The spiral nebulae tend to develop systems with rounder and
rounder orbits, and the clusters made up of thousands of stars
assume globular figures with minimal surfaces and internal density
so arranged as to give maximum exhaustion of the potential energy .

46. This is geometry of the most marvelous kind, as we
find it impressed on the systems of the sidereal universe; and the
perfection of this most beautiful science of celestial geometry may
be considered the ultimate object of the labors of the astronomer.


The philosophic observer is not and never can be content with
mere observations of details which do not disclose the living, all-
pervading spirit of Nature.

47. If, then, the mystery of the gathering of stars into
clusters is now penetrated and traced to the clustering power of
universal gravitation, so also is the mystery of the converse prob-
lem of starless space, which was a subject of such profound medi-
tation by the great Herschel.

48. This incomparable astronomer likewise correctly con-
cluded that the breaking up of the Milky Way into a clustering
stream is an inevitable effect of the ravages of time; but we are
now enabled to foresee the restorative process, under the repulsive
forces of Nature, by which new nebulae, clusters and sidereal sys-
tems of high order eventually will develop in the present depopu-
lated regions of starless space.

49. If there be an incessant expulsion of dust from the stars
to form nebulae, with the condensation of the nebulae into stars
and stellar systems, while the gathering of stars drawn together
by a clustering power operating over millions of ages gives at
length a globular mass of thousands of stars accumulating to a
perfect blaze of starlight in the center, but surrounded externally
by a desert of starless space resulting from the ravages of time,
certainly the building of these magnificient sidereal systems may
well engage the attention of the natural philosopher.

50. As remarked by Newton in his second letter to Bentley
(Horsely's edition of Newton's Opera Omnia, Vol. IV, p. 436), it
was pointed out by Blondel in his work on Bombs, (Paris, 1685,
p. 199) that Plato affirms that the motions of the planets is such
as if they had all been created by the Deity in some region very
remote from our system, and let fall from thence towards the sun,
and so soon as they arrived at their several orbs, their motion of
falling turned aside into a transverse one.

51. Newton adds that "this is true, supposing the gravi-
tating power of the sun was double, at that moment of time in
which they arrive at their several orbs; but then the Divine power


is here required in a double respect, namely, to turn the descending
motions of the falling planets to a side motion, and at the same
time to double the attractive power of the sun. So then gravity
may put the planets into motion, but without the Divine power
it could never put them into such a circulating motion, as they
have about the sun; and therefore for this, as well as other reasons,
I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this system to an intelligent

52. This great historical problem of how the planets acquired
their transverse motions has now been solved in a satisfactory
manner; and it is remarkable that Plato's idea of formation in
the distance, with subsequent approach to the sun, is verified by
the most rigorous researches of modern science.

53. The transverse motion is now shown to have developed
from the unsymmetrical figure of our primordial nebula, which
finally gave the system a whirling motion about an axis, with most
of the bodies near the plane of maximum areas, and thus the orbits
are but little inclined to the Invariable Plane discovered by Laplace
in 1784.

54. The turning of the planets from descending motions in
very elongated orbits, to orbits of small eccentricity, thus giving
the lateral motions discussed by Newton, is now satisfactorily
explained by the secular action of the nebular resisting medium;
but while the mystery is solved, we must admire the perfection of
this wonderful process established by the Deity for rendering the
planets habitable for living beings requiring uniform conditions
of temperature. And this process exists for developing habitable
planets wherever a star twinkles.

55. Having established how the planets were formed about
our sun, we are enabled to affirm that as all stars developed from
nebulae, they also have developed about them corresponding
planetary systems, or become spectroscopic or visual binary stars.
At least one-fifth of the stars are spectroscopically double and the
other four-fifths have attendant bodies too minute to be detected
by our most delicate instruments. All the stars therefore are


centers of systems of some kind, but most of them forever beyond
our powers of observation.

56. The orbits of these remote planets in other systems are
rounded up like our own, by motion in the nebular resisting me-
dium; and their moons are covered by craters due to collision, as
in the case of our moon. These planets thus acquire small obli-
quities, and axial rotation giving day and night, as in the solar

57. As these distant planets have the same chemical ele-
ments which we are familiar with, and in many cases are habitable,
it follows that they also are inhabited by intelligent beings; other-
wise it is necessary to hold that life upon the planet Earth in the
solar system is contrary to the general order of the universe and
therefore an accident and a mistake, existing in violation of the

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Online LibraryW. L. (William Larkin) WebbBrief biography and popular account of the unparalleled discoveries of T.J.J. See .. → online text (page 21 of 28)