Friday, March 28, 2008

from History of the Earth, and Animated Nature, 1854

(page 117)

We have the description of a very extraordinary one given us by Montanari, that serves to show to what great heights in our atmosphere these vapours are found to ascend. In the year 1676, a great globe of fire was seen at Bononia, in Italy, about three quarters of an hour after sun-set. It passed westward with a most rapid course, at the rate of not less than a hundred and sixty miles in a minute, which is much swifter than the force of a cannon-ball, and at last stood over the Adriatic Sea. In its course it crossed over all Italy; and by computation it could not have been less than thirty-eight miles above the surface of the earth. In the whole line of its course, wherever it approached, the inhabitants below could distinctly hear it, with a hissing noise resembling that of a firework. Having passed away to sea towards Corsica, it was heard at last to go off with a violent explosion, much louder than that of a cannon; and immediately after another noise was heard, like the rattling of a heavy cart upon a stony pavement—which was probably nothing more than an echo of the former sound. Its magnitude when at Bononia appeared to be twice as long as the moon one way, and as broad the other; so that, considering its height, it could not have been less than a mile long and half a mile broad. From the height at which this was seen, and there being no volcano in that quarter of the world from whence it came, it is more than probably that this terrible globe was kindled on some part of the contrary side of the globe, in those regions of vapours which we have been just describing; and thus, rising above the air, and passing in a course opposite to that of the earth's motion, in this manner it acquired its amazing rapidity.

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