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The Constitution Of The Sun
by [?]

[First published in The Reader for February 25, 1865. I reproduce this essay chiefly to give a place to the speculation concerning the solar spots which forms the latter portion of it.]

The hypothesis of M. Faye, described in your numbers for January 28 and February 4, respectively, is to a considerable extent coincident with one which I ventured to suggest in an article on “Recent Astronomy and the Nebular Hypothesis,” published in the Westminster Review for July, 1858. In considering the possible causes of the immense differences of specific gravity among the planets, I was led to question the validity of the tacit assumption that each planet consists of solid or liquid matter from centre to surface. It seemed to me that any other internal structure which was mechanically stable, might be assumed with equal legitimacy. And the hypothesis of a solid or liquid shell, having its cavity filled with gaseous matter at high pressure and temperature [and of great density], was one which seemed worth considering.

Hence arose the inquiry–What structure will result from the process of nebular condensation? [Here followed a long speculation respecting the processes going on in a concentrating nebulous spheroid; the general outcome of which is implied in Note III of the foregoing essay. I do not reproduce it because, not having the guidance of Prof. Andrew’s researches, I had concluded that the formation of a molten shell would occur universally, instead of occasionally, as is now argued in the note named. The essay then proceeded thus:–]

The process of condensation being in its essentials the same for all concentrating nebular spheroids, planetary or solar, it was argued that the Sun is still passing through that incandescent stage which all the planets have long ago passed through: his later aggregation, joined with the immensely greater ratio of his mass to his surface, involving comparative lateness of cooling. Supposing the sun to have reached the state of a molten shell, inclosing a gaseous nucleus, it was concluded that this molten shell, ever radiating its heat, but ever acquiring fresh heat by further integration of the Sun’s mass, must be constantly kept up to that temperature at which its substance evaporates.

[Here followed part of the paragraph quoted in the preceding essay on p. 155; and there succeeded, in subsequent editions, a paragraph aiming to show that the inferred structure of the Sun’s interior was congruous with the low specific gravity of the Sun–a conclusion which, as indicated on p. 156, implies some very problematical assumptions respecting the natures of the unknown elements of the Sun. There then came this passage:–]

The conception of the Sun’s constitution thus set forth, is like that of M. Faye in so far as the successive changes, the resulting structures, and the ultimate state, are concerned; but unlike it in so far as the Sun is supposed to have reached a later stage of concentration. As I gather from your abstract of M. Faye’s paper [this referred to an article in The Reader], he considers the Sun to be at present a gaseous spheroid, having an envelope of metallic matters precipitated in the shape of luminous clouds, the local dispersions of which, caused by currents from within, appear to us as spots; and he looks forward to the future formation of a liquid film as an event that will soon be followed by extinction. Whereas the above hypothesis is that the liquid film already exists beneath the visible photosphere, and that extinction cannot result until, in the course of further aggregation, the gaseous nucleus has become so much reduced, and the shell so much thickened, that the escape of the heat generated is greatly retarded…. M. Faye’s hypothesis appears to be espoused by him, partly because it affords an explanation of the spots, which are considered as openings in the photosphere, exposing the comparatively non-luminous gases filling the interior. But if these interior gases are non-luminous from the absence of precipitated matter, must they not for the same reason be transparent? And if transparent, will not the light from the remote side of the photosphere seen through them, be nearly as bright as that of the side next to us? By as much as the intensely-heated gases of the interior are disabled by the dissociation of their molecules from giving off luminiferous undulations, by so much must they be disabled from absorbing the light transmitted through them. And if their great light-transmitting power is exactly complementary to their small light-emitting power, there seems no reason why the interior of the Sun, disclosed to us by openings in the photosphere, should not appear as bright as its exterior.