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centre does not pass the sun's centre, but crosses obliquely, then only part of the sun, or a limb, as it is called astronomically, is obscured.
The darkness at the Crucifixion was not caused by “opposing spheres,” but was altogether miraculous: it was the terrible vengeance of God, “the outer darkness” gathered round the head of that most blessed sufferer, who, with the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and contrary to us, nailed to his cross, suffered there the just for the unjust. (Compare Col. ii. 14, with Gal. ii. 13, and Mark xv. 33, 34.)
How beautifully the fourth night (“ The Christian Triumph") in “Young's Night Thoughts," alludes to this:
“And was the ransom paid? it was: and paid
(What can exalt the bounty more!) for you.
Having spent so much time in considering our own habitation, The EARTH, and its Moon; let us now pass on beyond our orbit, and see the next planet in the heavens; and that is Mars.
Mars is fifty millions of miles further from the sun than the earth; so water would freeze at its equator, and spirits of wine would freeze at a latitude corresponding to London; this planet appears of a deep red colour, and may be seen by the naked eye.
Vesta, Juno, Ceres, and Pallas, are at nearly the same distances from the sun, and are very small; so that it is calculated that the diameter of Pallas is not more than seventy miles.
Jupiter is next in brilliancy to Venus, and is the largest planet of our system, its diameter being eighty-eight thousand miles, that is, eleven times greater than the earth's; at times it surpasses Venus in brightness ; Jupiter has four moons attendant on him, which can be seen with a good common telescope; the knowledge of these is very valuable. Their eclipses are marked at Greenwich in the Nautical tables, and the same eclipses marked in another part of the globe; the difference of time, therefore, between them, is the difference of longitude: of course this cannot be done at sea. The discovery of these Satellites and their eclipses also, determined the important astronomical fact, that light was not communicated instantaneously, but that it occupied TIME in coming from a luminous body to the eye.
Galileo was the first who discovered the satellites of Jupiter.
Jupiter, like all the other planets, seems to have an atmosphere of its own;
it is also surrounded with a number of parallel cloudy belts. Saturn is still more remote from the sun, as you will see by your
• See Appendix.
table; Saturn has seven moons, and is also encircled with a brilliant broad ring, sometimes exceeding in brightness the planet itself; its distance from Saturn is a third of the diameter of that planet, which distance also just equals the breadth of the ring.
Georgium Sidus. This is the last of the planets, and seems to be placed in the utmost bounds of the solar system, its distance being eighteen hundred millions of miles from the sun: it has six moons.
Ere we leave the solar system to pass into the regions of the fixed stars, we must not omit to consider this singular order of heavenly bodies.
The word Comet is derived from the Greek word for hair, and probably the ancients thus applied the word on account of the luminous tail that almost always accompanies them. Though irregular in their movements, yet the return of some of the comets has been predicted with great accuracy.* They are supposed to be of inconsiderable size. The comet of the last year, (1843,) seems to have caused great interest; in the southern hemisphere its tail was visible to an amazing extent; our last letter from your dear brother J., thus speaks of it:
Astronomers noticed a comet in 1305, 1456, 1531, 1607, 1682. Dr. Halley supposed that this was one and the same comet, and if so, predicted its return in 1759, which accordingly came to pass, and it doubtless was the same as appeared in 1835.
_The wonderful comet has caused a great sensation among the settlers : it extended, I should say, over one-sixth of the heavens; was it seen in England ?” Australia, April 14, 1843.
THE HEAVEN OF THE FIXED STARS.
Leaving the solar system, one is lost in amazement in passing on into the boundless regions of the fixed stars, all shining in unborrowed lustre; the thought of the Psalmist irresistibly recurs to the mind, “ When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man, that thou visitest him ?” (Ps. viii. 3, 4.) And again, how sublime is that appeal to Job, when the Lord, evidently in direct reference to the starry heavens, says,* “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons ? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven ? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth ?” (Job xxxviii. 31–33.) Yes, beloved children, God WALKETH in this circuit of the heaven, (Job xxii. 14,) and all these orbs of light move at his direction; he has appointed them “ for times, and for signs, and for seasons.”
Again, how striking is that reference to the constellations in Job ix. 1–10. See also Amos v. 8.
In the absence of the moon, THE STAR-LIGHT OF NIGHT" is most cheering; and in an astronomical point of view, the knowledge of the stars is very valuable ; night after night have I at sea beguiled the time in watching this or that fixed star coming to its meridian, and by taking its altitude, ascertained the latitude of the ship: of course these observations, from the obscurity of the horizon, cannot be so accurate as those taken from the sun; but if the sun has not been seen for “many days,” then they become very valuable; the polar star, with some slight variations allowed, may be thus taken any hour of the night.
The distance of the fixed stars is beyond our calculation : it may be thus illustrated :-“If we look down a straight road, the pathway on each side seems to unite in the distance; and at this point, if there were two trees, one on each side, they would appear one; but as we walk along the road, the trees gradually separate, and we see the road beyond them; now the earth at one period of her revolution is a hundred and ninety millions of miles nearer to some fixed stars, than she was six months before, yet this enormous space makes no difference betwixt
any of the fixed stars; how cast then must be their distances from us !" *
The brightest of the fixed stars is Sirius, but even its rays twinkle as they reach us; in this the fixed stars differ from the planets. We
• Rev. T. G. Hall's Exercises in Astronomy, p. 21.