Giving us a glimpse into thoughts on astronomy and climate change in the mid 1800s, this piece shows us that science hasn’t always been an exact, er — science. Today, of course, we know the Earth’s orbit is relatively steady, varying between 91 and 94 million miles from the sun during the course of the year. – AJW

The distance of the sun increasing

A German publication has given the calculation to prove that the distance between the earth and the sun is annually increasing, and attributes this fact the increasing humidity of our summers, and the loss of fertility in the soil of the formerly most favored regions of the earth.

The vegetable and animal remains found even withing the recent strata of the Arctic circle, show a degree of heat formerly prevailed there which equaled that of equatorial regions of the present time, and although many ingenious theories have been started to account for this desolation of a once sunny region, none seems so rational as the very obvious one of a gradual withdrawal of the great source of light and heat.

The Egyptians, Chinese and other nations have traditions that at a very early period of their history the apparent diameter of the sun was double what it now is, and according to the tables of the German savant, in the course of six thousand years more the disc of that luminary will have diminished so that we shall receive but one eighth part of the solar influence which we at present enjoy, the whole earth being covered with eternal ice.

It is now admitted by the most orthodox school of science that the earth and other planets were thrown off from the sun, so that our globe has confessedly traveled one hundred millions of miles from its birth place, and no absurdity exists in the supposition that it has not yet ceased receding, though at a constantly diminished rate, which may or may not reach the 0 point before it arrives at such a distance as to be uninhabitable, when following the analogy of all other known perturbations and eccentricities among the different bodies of the universe, it will undoubtedly retrace its steps to a point much nearer than any it has occupied during this historic period, and so move back and forth, like a mighty pendulum forever, measuring off perhaps thousands of ages at each beat.

Or perchance, having run its course, it will fall back into the sun — as a man, who springs from dust, returns to dust again — to be again evolved in the form of nebulous matter, and again condensed into a habitable globe.


Illustration: A portion of Adam & Charles Black’s 1873 chart of the Solar System/Theory of the Seasons

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Source publication: The Jeffersonian (Stroudsburg, Pa.)

Source publication date: September 22, 1859

Filed under: 1850s, Discoveries & inventions

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