Saturday, March 29, 2008

from Whirlwinds and Dust-Storms of India, 1860

(page 65)

Eccentric Movement of a Star.

Three officers of the Bengal Artillery relate as follows — One
evening, during the last week in April, an hour and half after sunset, the atmosphere being perfectly clear and without clouds, and no moon shining, a little haze only, low in the horizon, three of us, Lieuts. Machell, Turnbull and myself, saw a star in the west move and undergo sundry eccentric motions.

When first noticed, it was at an elevation of about 12° above
the horizon, and its direction from us was about W. 10° S.

We imagined it must be merely an optical illusion, but each of us then looked at it from a fixed position, and brought it on a line with some fixed object.

M. reclined his head against a wall, and brought it in a line
with a string held vertically, as in laying a mortar. I also adopted a plan, and brought the Star in a line with the two
posts of my bed, and we each remarked that the Star moved a good deal to the left of us, that is, in a Southerly direction, though not in a direct line, South.

It sometimes dropped down some distance and went off in
a zig-zag direction, then rose again, and at times remained stationary. It also varied much in brilliancy and in colour, sometimes becoming quite bright, at other times scarcely perceptible. When it approached the horizon, we generally lost sight of it altogether, which may possibly be accounted for by its getting obscured in the haze. The Star once or twice moved to the right, but during the half hour we continued to observe it, it had moved considerably to the left of our position, or to the South, over a space perhaps of 8° or more. It described no regular motion, and went off by fits and starts, and varied from its original position in the heavens considerably, as I tested by forming a triangle with it and two other fixed stars.

Its velocity too was different at different times.

My decided opinion is that it was not a meteor, but one of
the fixed stars, though I confess I have not been able to identify it with any one of them since that night.

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