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|The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 85: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics; January, 1900 (Classic Reprint)
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Excerpt from The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 85: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics; January, 1900
It ought to be said that a little doubt still attaches to the received interpreta tion of these phenomena. As no one of these stars appears double in the largest telescopes, our conclusion that they are double must be based wholly upon the evidence of the spectroscope. Now, un fortunately, our argument that these oh jects are double stars is not conclusive. We can show that a binary system such as we imagine would produce just the phe nomena of spectral doubling observed, but we are not able to show that no other suitable explanation can be found. In fact, there is another explanation, lately developed, which is not improbable. Dr. Zeeman, a noted Dutch physicist, has found that when the radiating body is placed in a strong magnetic field, the lines of certain elements broaden and become double, not unlike the doubling observed in the spectra of certain stars. This, however, does not account for the periodic character of the doubling; and should that phenomenon be clearly and fully established, as an inﬂexible law operating at a constant period, it would tend to exclude such an explanation as that suggested by Zeeman's experiments. But should it turn out that the lines in question double with a periodicity which is not perfectly fixed, it might very well be that the spectroscopic binaries are in reality single stars, in which the atmo spheres are periodically charged with strong electric or magnetic tension. This outcome, to be sure, does not seem very probable, but yet it is far from an im possibility, and its discovery is one of the notable scientific events of the past two years.
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