THE DEPTH OF SPACE. – In 1837, Professor
Bessel, of Germany, commenced a series of astronomical measures
for getting the exact distance to the fixed stars, a thing that had
never been done. After three years of hard labour, he was so fortunate
as to obtain a parallax, but so minute that he could hardly trust his
reputation upon it. But after repeated trials and working out the results,
he was fully satisfied that he could give the true distance to sixty-one
Cygni. We can only convey an idea to the mind of this distance by
the fact that light, which travels 10,000,000 of miles in a minute,
requires not less than ten years to reach us! Just let anyone try to
take in the idea. One hour would give 720,000,000 of miles; one year
then – 8760 hours – gives 6,307,200,000,000, and this multiplied
by ten, gives 63,072,000,000,000. This, according to Professor Bessel,
is the distance of the nearest fixed star to the sun. But this distance,
great as it is, is nothing to be compared to the distance of the Milky
Way. Sir William Herschel says that the stars or suns that compose the
Milky Way are so remote, that it requires light going at the rate of
12,000,000 of miles in a minute, 120,000 years to reach the earth. And
he says there are stars, or rather nebulae, five hundred times more
remote! Now make your calculation: 120,000 years reduced to minutes,
and then multiply that sum by 12,000,000, and the product by 500. What
an overwhelming idea!