Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 296 pages of information about Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20).
There are a hundred million to choose from, and we shall begin with the brightest.  It is often called the Dog Star, but astronomers know it better as Sirius.  Let us see where it is to be placed on our map.  Sirius is beyond Neptune, so it must be outside somewhere.  Indeed, it is a good deal further off than Neptune; so I try at the edge of the drawing-board; I have got a method of making a little calculation that I do not intend to trouble you with, but I can assure you that the results it leads me to are quite correct; they show me that this board is not big enough.  But could a board which was big enough fit into this lecture theatre?  Here, again, I make my little calculations, and I find that there would not be room for a board sufficiently great; in fact, if I put the sun here at one end, with its planets around it?  Sirius would be too near on the same scale if it were at the further corner.  The board would have to go out through the wall of the theatre, out through London.  Indeed, big as London is, it would not be large enough to contain the drawing-board that I should require.  It would have to stretch about twenty miles from where we are now assembled.  We may therefore dismiss any hope of making a practical map of our system on this scale if Sirius is to have its proper place.  Let us, then, take some other star.  We shall naturally try with the nearest of all.  It is one that we do not know in this part of the world, but those that live in the southern hemisphere are well acquainted with it.  The name of this star is Alpha Centauri.  Even for this star we should require a drawing three or four miles long if the distance from the earth to the sun is to be taken as one inch.  You see what an isolated position our sun and his planets occupy.  The members of the family are all close together, and the nearest neighbors are situated at enormous distances.  There is a good reason for this separation.  The stars are very pretty and perfectly harmless to us where they are at present situated.  They might be very troublesome neighbors if they were very much closer to our system.  It is therefore well they are so far off; they would be constantly making disturbances in the sun’s family if they were near at hand.  Sometimes they would be dragging us into unpleasantly great heat by bringing us too close to the sun, or producing a coolness by pulling us away from the sun, which would be quite as disagreeable.

The Stars are Suns.

We are about to discuss one of the grandest truths in the whole of nature.  We have had occasion to see that this sun of ours is a magnificent globe immensely larger than the greatest of his planets, while the greatest of these planets is immensely larger than this earth; but now we are to learn that our sun is, indeed, only a star not nearly so bright as many of those which shine over our heads every night.  We are comparatively close to the sun, so that we are able to enjoy his beautiful light and cheering heat. 

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Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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