Saturday, December 6, 2008

from The English Mechanic and World of Science, 1892

(page 34)

The British journalist can scarcely be accused of being behindhand in his accounts and announcements of marvellous phenomena in the heaves; for, to give a single example, "the Star of Bethlehem" crops up as regularly in the newspapers as the sea-serpent. But if we may judge from the following extract (which I translate from the Stockholm paper l'Aftonblad of the 9th), he, in our popular slang, "isn't in it" with his Swedish confreres. "In the environs of Hochland," says the paragraph in the Stockholm journal, "there was seen between 9 and 10 o'clock at night, in the direction of the North, to the west of the Great Bear, and pretty high up in the sky, a large star, which seemed to be of the first magnitude, and which rendered itself conspicuous by its extraordinary movement. At first it advanced with great rapidity, and in a straight line, towards the East for an estimated distance of 125 yds. (!), appearing then to be oblong, and approximately 12 in. long by about a quarter of that wide, and to be of a fiery red colour. It then returned to its first position; subsequently rising slowly, then descending considerably below it, and finishing by recovering it. It moved principally in straight lines, with a very slight elliptical curvature, but incessantly changing colour. This agitation (or movement) continued for 10 hours, when it ceased. The phenomenon was observed by several people. The sole hypothesis admissable at present," the writer goes on to say, "in the study of these meteors, which are bolides of which the trajectories are often perturbed in their initial direction, is that it may happen that after having encountered atmospheric strata of greater and greater density, the bolides experience a kind of ricochet, which prevents their further approach to the earth, and sends them back towards the upper regions of the atmosphere—circumstances which may occasion changes in the form and curvature of the trajectories of bolides. We must, nevertheless, add that the symmetry of the movement in the present phenomenon is without precedent in the catalogue which treats of these phenomena." I should think so. An elliptical bolide of a fiery red, but continually changing colour, which oscillates like a pendulum and remains visible for 10 hours!!! is not likely to be included in any "catalogue which treats of these phenomena."

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