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The insect swarms which delighted us with their ceaseless hum, their varied tints, and beautiful forms, during the summer and autumnal months, are now retired to their winter quarters, and remain in a state of torpidity, till awakened by the enlivening warmth of spring. Spiders pass the brumal season in a dormant state, enclosed in their own webs, and placed in some concealed corner.
Holly and mistletoe are in great request at this season. A late writer has remarked that “the singularity of the growth and form of the mistletoe brought it into repute among the Druids for the purposes of mystical superstition; and its use has thence been continued many centuries afterwards, so difficult it is to eradicate anything of this kind from the minds of the people when once it is fairly rooted. It was long thought to be impossible to propagate this plant. In the natural state, the seeds are said to be dropped by the missel-thrush, which feeds on the berries. Lately, however, it has been successfully propagated, by causing the bruised berries, which are very viscid, to adhere to the bark of such fruit-trees as have been found most congenial to their growth. Upon the bark of these the seeds readily germinate and take root.”
We have now come not only to the conclusion of another month, but also another year: this, with the present exhibitions of animated and vegetable nature, lead the contemplative mind to serious reflections.
“ On, on, in one unwearied round,
Old Time pursues his way;
Expects in peace her yellow prey :
Together fall, together lie;
Howe'er they lived, are all that die;
BRIEF ASTRONOMICAL NOTICES,
por DECEMBER, 1847.
By Mr. William Rogerson, of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
“ WINTER.---Thou hold'st the sun
A prisoner in the yet undawning east,
I crown thee King of intimate delights,
COWPER. A CERTAIN writer, exhibiting the capabilities of the human mind, says, “ The soul with out-spread wings travels through space, and adds yet more and more to its dimensions. With the swift-winged arrows of light, the soul visits the various regions of the vast universe far beyond, where Arcturus and his sons pursue their circling way, or where Orion stretches his stupendous form across the heavens, or where the dim-shining Pleiades shed forth their mild splendour! The soul views far beneath, in her majestic flight, all the constellations which gem the sky of this remote province of creation, and beholds other brilliant hosts of glowing firmaments, where systems roll on systems in infinite progression. While thus surveying these innumerable regions, teeming with the wonders of creative power, the soul looks abroad, and exults in her immortality."
The Sun rises at London and Greenwich on the 1st at forty-six minutes past seven, and sets at fifty-three minutes after three : he rises at Edinburgh on the same day at eleven minutes past eight, and sets at twenty-seven minutes after three. The Sun rises at London and Greenwich on the 21st at six minutes past eight, and sets at fifty-one minutes after three : he rises at Edinburgh on the same day at thirty-three minutes past eight, and sets at twenty-three minutes after three.
The Moon rises on the 1st at a quarter before one in the morning : she rises on the 3d about three o'clock, and on the 5th at two minutes before five: she changes on the 7th, at thirty-one minutes after eight at night; and sets on the 9th at a quarter before six in the evening: she sets on the 11th at three minutes before eight, and on the 14th at half-past eleven, at night. The Moon is half-full on the 15th ; and is due south on the 17th at a quarter-past eight, and on the 19th at seven minutes after ten, at night: she is full on the 21st, at eight minutes past ten, at night; and exhibits her splendid orb in the eastern horizon on the 22d at seven minutes past five in the evening: she rises on the 25th at twenty-five minutes after eight, and on the 27th at half past ten, at night. The Moon enters on her last quarter on the 29th, and enlightens the mornings to the end of the month; for on the 31st I find she rises at forty-three minutes after one.
MERCURY is visible in the mornings about the middle of the month: he rises on the 14th at fifty-eight minutes past five, and on the 20th at fourteen minutes after six.
VENUS, now “the morning star,” is a lovely object at the break of day: she rises throughout this month between three and four o'clock : on the 3d and 4th this splendid planet is in the neighbourhood of the Moon.
Mars appears high in the south-eastern skies while the evening
twilight is fading away ; though apparently diminishing in size, owing to his distance from the earth increasing, he is still a conspicuous object, and his ruddy disc renders it impossible for him to be mistaken for any other star: he is due south on the 1st at a quarter-past nine, on the 12th at half-past eight, and on the 28th at forty minutes after seven in the evening; on the 17th he is in the neighbourhood of the Moon.
JUPITER appears very brilliant every evening near the eastern horizon: as night advances, he mounts high in the heavens; and at the end of the month is due south soon after midnight: on the 22d and 23d he is not far from the Moon. The belts and satellites of this planet are now to be seen to advantage by those persons who are in possession of proper telescopes.
I will here insert the lively and characteristic account which Kepler gives of his receiving the intelligence of the discovery of Jupiter's satellites :-“I was sitting idle at home, thinking of you, most excellent Galileo, and your letters, when the news was brought me of the discovery of four planets, by the help of the double eye-glass. Wacherfels stopped his carriage at my door to tell me, when such a fit of wonder seized me at a report that seemed so very absurd, that I was thrown into such agitation at seeing an old dispute between us decided in this way, that between his joy, my colouring, and the taughter of both, confounded as we were by such a novelty, we were hardly capable, he of speaking, or I of listening."
Saturn is to be seen in the south-west during the early part of the night: he is due south at the beginning of the month at six o'clock, at the middle at five, and at the end of the month at four in the evening : on the 13th-and 14th he is in the vicinity of the Moon.
URANUS is favourably situated for telescopic observations : his right ascension on the 1st is Oh. 54m. 38s., and his declination 5° 7m. 40s. north: on the 30th his right ascension is Oh. 53m. 52 s., and his declination 5° 4m. Is. north.
NEPTUNE continues to be a telescopic object in the evenings : his right ascension on the 1st is 22h. Om. 33s., and his declination 12° 49m. 19s. south : his right ascension on the 11th is 22h. Im. 9s., and his declination 12° 46m. ls. south.
Unfavourable weather, and the low altitude of this planet, have not allowed Mr. Lassell to observe the ring of Neptune satisfactorily : there is, however, no doubt in his mind as to the existence of a ring. The observations of the satellite have been more successful : it has been repeatedly seen in the course of the year, and the non-existence of any star in the places successively occupied by it, frequently ascertained. From the mean of his observations, Mr. Lassell concludes that the satellite revolves about the planet in five days, twenty-one hours, nearly; and that its greatest elongation is somewhere about eighteen seconds in space. The orbit which it appears to describe has a minor axis, differing little from the diameter of the planet. The satellite is much brighter in the preceding than in the following half of its path. The sixth satellite of Saturn varies similarly in brightness. This periodical variation seems to show that one side of the satellite has less power of giving back light than the other; and that the time of rotation upon its axis is equal to its periodic time round the planet, as is the case in our own Moon.
ON THE LATE NOTABLE ECLIPSE OF THE SUN. The morning of the 9th of October was so completely cloudy at Greenwich, that the Sun, by the most careful observers, was not seen from the time of his rising to the end of the eclipse. Such was the case at Salisbury, as I was informed by the Rev. Daniel Chapman. The morning was also very cloudy at Exeter, where the eclipse was nearly central. The weather was more favourable for my friends at Dover and Folkestone. Mr. J. L. Hulett, master of the Adelaide Academy, of the former place, says, in a letter to me, “ The Sun arose beclouded, and continued so until it reached the state of figure 1,” (referring to my representations of the eclipse for Dover, given in “ The Youth's Instructer," " when we had a most splendid view, with the exception of two or three intervals of a minute or two each, when some thin clouds passed over it, until it reached the state of No. 4, when the Sun became more clouded, and was scarcely visible again. Just before the greatest obscuration, we had the mortification to perceive a narrow cloud approach the Sun, and this obscured his lower limb during the existence of the annular appearance.”
Mr. Davies, of Folkestone, informed me that numbers of persons assembled on the cliff near the church, where they were greatly entertained by frequent views of the eclipsed Sun through passing clouds; but it seems the annulus was not seen there, owing to intervening clouds. At a place between Folkestone and Canterbury the annular appearance was noticed; for a countryman, unacquainted with the nature of eclipses, was known to make this remarkable observation :-" How terrible queer the Moon looked in the morning between seven and eight o'clock : it had a ring round it !”
In the northern parts of the kingdom (where the eclipse was not annular) the weather proved very favourable, and thousands of persons beheld the interesting phenomenon without the interposition of a cloud.
My old astronomical friend, Mr. Moses Holden, of Preston, in Lancashire, observed the eclipse at Howick-House, the residence of Thomas Norris, Esq., where he made a number of observations on the eclipsed part of the Sun by one of Troughton's sextants. Respecting the end of the eclipse, Mr. Holden says, “ Having computed the time as near as we could judge of the latitude and longitude of Howick-House, I give the observed end of the eclipse 8 hours, 36 minutes, 48 seconds; the computed 8 hours, 36 minutes, 35 seconds: the difference was 13 seconds. The time was taken by a fine transit-instrument in the observatory at Howick-House."
THOUGHTS ON LIFE.
From an American Paper. What is this fleeting life ?
A bubble on the wing; The morning cloud, the vapoury dew, The summer evening's short-lived hue,
The zephyr in the spring ;
The midnight's pleasing dream,
Yet short howe'er it be,
'Tis all that is assign'd To' ensure a bliss of endless name, To save the soul from sin and shame,
And have its dross refined ;
That never know alloy,
But O! how strange it seems!
The soul still rests secure, As though its place were always here, As though no death it had to fear,
Nor any change to' endure;
It ne'er aspires on high
How darken’d, how depraved
This wretched, silly mind! To catch at bubbles, aim at toys, And yet neglect substantial joys;
How foolish and how blind!
By trifling thoughtlessness,
O come, thou heavenly Dove,
And rouse this slumbering mind, And fill with anxious cares and fears ; Suffuse these eyes with gracious tears ;