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Tutor. This you will easily calculate, when you know, that they are only about eight minutes in coming from the sun.
Charles. And if you reckon the sun to be at the distance of ninety-five millions of miles from the earth; light proceeds at the rate, nearly, of twelve millions of miles in a minute, or at 200,000 miles in a second of time. But how do you know that it travels
Tutor. It was discovered by M, Roemer, who observed that the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites took place about sixteen minutes later, if the earth were in that part of its orbit, which is farthest from Jupiter, than if it were in the opposite point of the heavens.
Charles. I understand this; the earth may sometimes be in a line between the sun and Jupiter, and at other times the sun is between the earth and Jupiter; and therefore, in the latter case, the distance of Jupiter from the earth is greater than in the former, by the whole length of its orbit.
Tutor. In this situation, the eclipse of
any of the satellites is, by calculation, sixteen minutes later than it would be, if the earth were between Jupiter and the sun; that is, the light flowing from Jupiter's satellites is about sixteen minutes in travelling the length of the earth's orbit, or 190 millions of miles.
James. It would be curious to calculate how much faster light travels than a cannon-ball.
Tutor. Suppose a cannon-ball to travel at the rate of twelve miles a minute; and light to move a million of times faster than that; yet Dr. Akenside conjectures that there may be stars so distant from us that the light proceeding from them has not yet reached the earth :
Whose unfading light Has travell'd thc profound six thousand years, Nor yet arriv'd in sight of mortal things.
Charles. Was it to this author that Dr. Young alludes in these lines?
How distant some of the nocturnal suns!
Tutor. He probably referred to Huygens, an eminent astronomer, who threw out the idea before Akenside was born.
James. And you say the particles of light move in all directions.
Tutor. Here is a sheet of thick brown paper, I make only a small pin-hole in it, and then through that hole, I can see all the objects, such as the sky, trees, houses, &c. as I could if the paper were not there..
Charles. Do we only see objects by means of the rays of light which flow from them?
Tutor. In no other way: and therefore the light that comes from the landscape, which I view by looking through the small hole in the paper, must come in all directions at the same time. —Take another in
stance; if a candle be placed on an eminence in a dark night, it may be seen all round for the space of half a mile: in other words, there is no place within a sphere of a mile in diameter, where the candle cannot be seen, that is, where some of the rays from the small flame will not be found.
James. Why do you limit the distance to half a mile?
Tutor. The distance, of course, will be greater or less, according to the size of the candle: but the degree of light, like heat, diminishes in proportion as you go farther from the luminous body.
Charles. Does it follow the same law as gravity *?
* See Scientific Dialogues, Vol. I. Conversation VII.