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New Lands, by Charles Fort, [1923], at


We have seen that some of the most brilliant inspirations of god-like intellects, or some of the most pestilential emanations from infected minds, have been attempts to account for the virtual changelessness of the stars. Above all other data of astronomy, that virtual changelessness of positions stands out as a crucial circumstance in my own mind. To account for constellations that have not changed in 2,000 years, astronomers say that they conceive of inconceivable distances. We shall have expressions of our own upon the virtually changeless positions of the stars; but there will be difficulties for us if the astronomers ever have found that some stars move around or with other stars. I shall take up the story of Prof. Struve and the "Companion of Procyon," with more detail, for the sake of some more light upon refinement, exactness, accuracy in astronomy, and for the sake of belittling, or for the sake of sneering, or anything else that anybody may choose to call it.

Prof. Struve's announcement of his discovery of the "Companion of Procyon" is published in Monthly Notices, 33-430—that, upon the 19th of March, 1873, Struve had discovered the companion of Procyon, having compared it micrometrically, having tested his observations with three determinations of position-angle, three measures of distance, and three additional determinations of position-angle, finding all in "excellent agreement." No optical illusion could be possible, it is said, because another astronomer, Lindemann, had seen the object. Technically, Struve publishes a table of his observations: sidereal time, distances, position-angles; from March 19 to April 2, 1873, after which his observations had to be

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discontinued until the following year. In Monthly Notices, 34-355, are published the resumed observations. Struve says that Auwers would not accept the discovery, unless, in the year that had elapsed, the "companion" had shown increase in position, consistent with theory. Struve writes—"This increase has really shown itself in the most remarkable manner." Therefore, he considers it "decisively established" that the object of his observations was the object of Auwers’ calculations. He says that Ceraski, of Moscow, had seen the "companion," "without being warned of the place where it was to be looked for."

However—see back some chapters.

It may be said that, nevertheless, other stars have companions that do move as they should move. Later we shall consider this subject, thinking that it may be that lights have been seen to change position near some stars, but that never has a star revolved around another star, as to fit palæo-astronomic theory it should. I take for a basis of analogy that never has one sat in a park and watched a tree revolve around one, but that given the affliction, or the endowment, of an astronomer, illusion of such a revolution one may have. We sit in a park. We notice a tree. Wherever we get the notion, we do have the notion that the tree has moved. Then, farther along, we notice another tree, and, as an indication of our vivid imagination or something else, we think it is the same tree, farther along. After that we pick out tree after tree, farther along, and, convinced that it is the same tree, of course conclude that the thing is revolving around us. Exactness and refinement develop: we compute the elements of its orbit. We close our eyes and predict where the tree will be when next we look; and there, by the same process of selection and identification, it is where it "should" be. And if we have something of almost everybody's mania for speed, we make that damn thing spin around with such velocity that we, too, reel in a chaos of very much unsettled botanic conventions. There is nothing far-fetched in this analogy, except the factor of velocity. Goldschmidt did announce that there were half a dozen faint points of light around Sirius, and it was Dawes’ suspicion that Clark had arbitrarily picked out one of them. It is our expression that all around Sirius, at various distances

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from Sirius, faint points of light were seen, and that at first, even for the first sixteen years, astronomers were not thoroughly hypnotized, and would not pick out the especial point of light that they should have picked out, so that there was nothing like agreement between the calculated and the observed orbit. Besides the irreconcilable observations noted by Flammarion, see the Intel. Obs., 1-482, for others. Then came standardized seeing. So, in the Observatory, 20-73, is published a set of observations, in the year 1896, upon the "Companion of Sirius," placing it exactly where it should be. Nevertheless, under this set of observations is published another set, so different that the Editor asks—"Does this mean that there are two companions?"

Dark Companions require a little more eliminative treatment. So the variable nebulæ, then—and do dark nebulæ revolve around light nebulæ? For instances of variable nebulæ, see Mems. R. A. S., 49-214; Comptes Rendus, 59-637; Monthly Notices, 38-104. It may be said that they are not of the Algol-type. Neither is Algol, we have shown.

According to the compulsions of data, our idea is that the stars that seem to be fixed in position are fixed in position, so now "proper motion" is as irreconcilable to us as relative motions.

As to "proper motion," the situation is this:

The stars that were catalogued 2,000 years ago have virtually not changed, or, if there be refinement in modern astronomy, have changed no more than a little more nearly exact charting would account for; but, in astronomic theory, the stars are said to be thought of as flying apart at unthinkable velocity; so then evidence of changed positions of stars is welcome to astronomers. As to well-known constellations, it cannot be said that there has been change; so, with several exceptions, "proper motion" is attributed to stars that are not well-known.

The result is an amusing trap. Great proper motion is said to indicate relative nearness to this earth. Of the twenty-five stars of supposed greatest proper motion, all but two are faintest of stars; so these twenty-three are said to be nearest this earth. But when astronomers take the relative parallax of a star, by reference to a fainter star, they agree that the fainter star, because fainter, is

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farther away. So one time faintness associates with nearness, and then conveniences change, and faintness associates with farness, and the whole subject so associates with humorousness, that if we're going to be serious at all in these expressions of ours we had better pass on.

Observatory, March, 1914:

A group of three stars that disappeared.

If three stars disappeared at once, they were acted upon by something that affected all in common. Try to think of some one force that would not tear the seeable into visible rags, that could blot out three stars, if they were trillions of miles apart. If they were close together that ends the explanation that only because stars are trillions of miles apart have they, for at least 2,000 years, seemed to hold the same relative positions.

In Agnes Clerke's System of the Stars, are cited many instances of stars that seem to be so closely related that it seems impossible to think that they are trillions, or billions, or millions of miles apart: such formations as "seven aligned stars appearing to be strung on a silvery filament." There are loops of stars in a cluster in Auriga; lines and arches in Opiuchus; zig-zag figures in Sagittarius. As to stars that not only seem close together but that are colored alike, Miss Clerke expresses her feeling that they are close together—"If these colors be inherent, it is difficult to believe that the stars distinguished by them are simply thrown together by perspective." As to figures in Sagittarius, Fison (Recent Advances in Astronomy) cites an instance of 30 small stars in the form of a forked twig, with dark rifts parallel. According to Fison, probability is overwhelmingly against the three uncommon stars in the belt of Orion falling into a straight line, by chance distribution, considering also that below this line is another of five faint stars parallel. There are dark lanes or rifts in the Milky Way that are like branches from main lanes or rifts, and the rifts sometimes have well-defined edges. In many regions where there are dark rifts there are lines of stars that are roughly parallel

That it is not distances apart that have held the stars from changing relatively to one another, because there are hosts of indications

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that some stars are close together, and are, or have been, affected, in common, by local formative forces.

For a detailed comparison, by J. E. Gore, of stars of today with stars catalogued by Al-Sufi about 1,000 years ago, see the Observatory, vol. 23. The stars have not changed in position, but it does seem that there have been many changes in magnitude.

Other changes—Pubs. Astro. Soc. Pacific, No. 185 (1920)—discovery of the seventeenth new star in one nebula (Andromeda). For lists of stars that have disappeared, see Monthly Notices, 8-16; 10-18; 11-47; Sidereal Messenger, 6-320; Jour. B. A. A., 14-255. Nebulæ that have disappeared—see Amer. Jour. Sci., 2-33-436; Clerke's System of the Stars, p. 293; Nature, 30-20.

In the Sidereal Messenger, 5-269, Prof. Colbert writes that, upon August 20, 1886, an astronomer, in Chicago, saw, for about half an hour, a small comet-like projection from the star Zeta, in Cassiopeia.

So, then, changes have been seen at the distance of the stars.

When the new star in Perseus appeared, in February, 1901, it was a point of light. Something went out from it, giving it in six months a diameter equal to half the apparent diameter of the moon. The appearances looked structural. To say loosely that they were light-effects, something like a halo, perhaps, is to ignore their complexity and duration and differences. According to Newcomb, who is occasionally quotable in our favor, these radiations were not mere light-rays, because they did not. go out uniformly from the star, but moved out variously and knotted and curved.

It was visible motion, at the distance of Nova Persei.

In Monthly Notices, 58-334, Dr. Espin writes that, upon the night of Jan. 16, 1898, he saw something that looked like a cloud in Perseus. It could have been nothing in the atmosphere of this earth, nor anything far from the constellation, because he saw it again in Perseus, upon January 24. He writes that, upon February 17, Mr. Heath and Dr. Halm saw it, like a cloud, dimming and discoloring stars shining through it. At the meeting of the British Astronomical Association, Feb. 23, 1898 (Jour. B. A. A., 8-216), Dr.

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[paragraph continues] Espin described this appearance and answered questions. "It was not a nebula, and was not like one." "Whatever it was it had the peculiar property of dimming and blotting out stars."

This thing moved into Perseus and then moved away.

Clerke, The System of the Stars, p. 295—a nebula that changed position abruptly, between the years 1833 and 1835, and then changed no more. According to Sir John Herschel, a star was central in this nebula, when observed in 1827, and in 1833, but, in August, 1835, the star was upon the eastern side of the nebula.

That it is not distance from this earth that has kept changes of position of the stars from being seen, for 2,000 years, because occasional, abrupt changes of position have been seen at the distance of the stars.

That, whether there be a shell-like, revolving composition, holding the stars in position, and in which the stars are openings, admitting light from an existence external to the shell, or not, all stars are at about the same distance from this earth as they would be if this earth were stationary and central to such a shell, revolving around it—

According to the aberration-forms of the stars.

All stars, at the pole of the ecliptic, describe circles annually; stars lower down describe ellipses that reduce more and more the farther down they are, until at the ecliptic they describe straight lines yearly.

Suppose all the stars to be openings, fixed in position relatively to one another, in some inter-spacing substance. Conceive of a gyration to the whole aggregation, and relatively to a central and stationary earth: then, as seen from this earth, all would describe circles, near the axis, ellipses lower down, and straight lines at the limit of transformation. If all were at the same distance from this earth, or if all were points in one gyrating concave formation, equi-distant at all points from the central earth, all would have the same amplitude. All aberration-forms of the stars, whether of brilliant or faint stars, whether circles or ellipses or straight lines, have the same amplitude: about 41 seconds of arc.

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If all stars are points of light admitted from externality, held fixed and apart in one shell-like composition that is opaque in some parts and translucent in some parts and perforated generally—

The Gegenschein—

That we have indication that there is such a shell around our existence.

The Gegenschein is a round patch of light in the sky. It seems to be reflected sunlight, at night, because it keeps position about opposite the sun's.

The crux:

Reflected sunlight—but reflecting from what?

That the sky is a matrix in which the stars are openings, and that, upon the inner, concave surface of this celestial shell, the sun casts its light, even if the earth is between, no more blotted out in the middle by the intervening earth than often to considerable degree is its light blotted out upon the moon during an eclipse of the moon, occupying no time in traveling the distance of the stars and back to this earth, because the stars are near, or because there is no velocity of light.

Suppose the Gegenschein could be a reflection of sunlight from anything at a distance less than the distance of the stars. It would have parallax against its background of stars.

Observatory, 17-47:

"The Gegenschein has no parallax."

At the meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, Jan. 11, 1878, was read a paper by W. F. Denning. It was, by its implications, one of the most exciting documents in history. The subject was: "Suspected repetitions in meteor-showers." Mr. Denning listed twenty-two radiants that lasted from three to four months each.

In the year 1799, Humboldt noticed that the paths of meteors, when parts of one display, led back to one point of common origin, or one point from which all the meteors had radiated. This is the radiant-point, or the radiant. When a radiant occurs under a constellation, the meteors are named relatively. In the extraordinary meteoric display of Nov. 13-14, 1833, there was a circumstance that was as extraordinary as the display itself: that, though

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this earth is supposed to rotate upon its axis, giving to the stars the appearance of revolving nightly, and supposed to revolve around the sun, so affecting the seeming motions of the stars, these meteors of November, 1833, began under the constellation Leo, and six hours later, though Leo had changed position in the sky, had changed with, and seemed still coming from, Leo.

There was no parallax along the great base line from Canada to Florida.

Then these meteors did come from Leo, or parallax, or absence of parallax, is meaningless.

The circumstance of precise position maintained under a moving constellation upon the night of Nov. 13-14, 1833, becomes insignificant relatively to Denning's data of such synchronization with a duration of months. When a radiant-point remains under Leo or Lyra, night after night, month after month, it is either that something is shifting it, without parallax, in exact coincidence with a doubly shifting constellation, which is so unthinkable that Denning says, "I cannot explain," or that the constellation is the radiant-point, in which case maintenance of precise position under it is unthinkable if it be far away—

That the stars are near.

Think of a ship, slowly sailing past a seacoast town, firing with smokeless powder, say. Shells from it burst before quite reaching the town, and all explosion-points are in line between the city and She ship, or are traceable to one such radiant. The bombardment continues. The ship moves slowly. Still all points of exploding shells are traceable to one point between the ship and the town. The bombardment goes on and goes on and goes on, and the ship is far from its first position. The point of exploding shells is still between the ship and the town. Wise men in the town say that the shells are not coming from the ship. They say this because formerly they had said that shells could not come from a ship. They reason: therefore shells are not coming from this ship. They are asked how, then, the point of explosion could so shift exactly in line with the moving ship. If there be a W. F. Denning among them, he will say, "I cannot explain." But the other wise men will be like Prof. Moulton, for instance. In his books, Prof. Moulton

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writes a great deal upon the subject of meteors, but he does not mention the meteors that, for months at a time, appear between observers and a shifting constellation.

There are other considerations. The shells are heard to explode. So then they explode near the town. But there is something the matter with that smokeless powder aboard ship: very feeble projectile-force, because also must the shells be exploding near the ship, or the radiant-point would not have the same background, as seen from different parts of the town. Then, in this town, inhabitants, provided they be not wise men, will conclude that, if the explosion-point is near the town, and is also near the ship, the ship is near the town—

Leo and Lyra and Andromeda—argosies that sail the sky and that bombard this earth—and that they are not far away.

And some of us there may be who, instead of trying to speculate upon an unthinkable remoteness, will suffer a sensitiveness to proximity instead; enter a new revolt against a black encompassment that glitters with a light beyond, and wonder what exists in a brilliant environment not far away—and a new anguish for hyperæsthesia upon this earth: a suffocating consciousness of the pressure of the stars.

The Sickle of Leo, from which come the Leonids, gleams like a great question-mark in the sky.

The answer—

But God knows what the answer to anything is.

Perhaps it is that the stars are very close indeed.

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