Zetetic Astronomy, by 'Parallax' (pseud. Samuel Birley Rowbotham), , at sacred-texts.com
IT has often been urged that the earth must be a globe, because the stars in the southern "hemisphere" move round a south polar star; in the same way that those of the north revolve round "Polaris," or the northern pole star. This is another instance of the sacrifice of truth, and denial of the evidence of our senses for the purpose of supporting a theory which is in every sense false and unnatural. It is known to every observer that the north pole star is the centre of a number of constellations which move over the earth in a circular direction. Those nearest to it, as the "Great Bear," &c., &c., are always visible in England during their whole twenty-four hours' revolution. Those further away southwards rise north-north-east, and set south-south-west; still further south they rise east by north, and set west by north. The farthest south visible from England, the rising is more to the east and south-east, and the setting to the west and south-west. But all the stars visible from London rise and set in a way which
is not compatible with the doctrine of rotundity. For in-stance, if we stand with our backs to the north, on the high land known as "Arthur's Seat," near Edinburgh, and note the stars in the zenith of our position, and watch for several hours, the zenith stars will gradually recede to the north-west. If we do the same on Woodhouse Moor, near Leeds, or on any of the mountain tops in Yorkshire or Derbyshire, the same phenomenon is observed. The same thing may be seen from the top of Primrose Hill, near Regent's Park, London; from Hampstead Heath; or Shooter's Hill, near Woolwich. If we remain all night, we shall observe the same stars rising towards our position from the north-east, showing that the path of all the stars between ourselves and the northern centre move round the north pole-star as a common centre of rotation; just as they must do over a plane such as the earth is proved to be. It is undeniable that upon a globe zenith stars would rise, pass over head, and set in the plane of the observer's position. If now we carefully watch in the same way the zenith stars from the Rock of Gibraltar, the very same phenomenon is observed. The same is also the case from Cape of Good Hope, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, in New Zealand, in Rio Janeiro, Monte Video, Valparaiso, and other places in the south. If then the zenith stars of all the places on the earth, where special observations have been made, rise from the morning horizon to the zenith of an observer, and descend to the evening horizon, not in a plane of the position of such observer, but in an arc of a circle concentric with the northern centre, the earth is thereby
proved to be a plane, and rotundity altogether disproved--shown, indeed, to be impossible.
Here, however, we are met with the positive assertion that there is a very small star (of about the sixth magnitude) in the south, called Sigma Octantis, round which all the constellations of the south revolve, and which is therefore the southern polar star. It is scarcely polite to contradict the statements made, but it is certain that persons who have been educated to believe that the earth is a globe, going to the southern parts of the earth do not examine such matters critically. They see the stars move from towards the east towards the west, and they are satisfied. But they have not instituted special experiments, regardless of results, to ascertain the real and absolute movements of the southern constellations. Another thing is certain, that from and within the equator the north pole star, and the constellations Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and many others, can be seen from every meridian simultaneously; whereas in the south, from the equator, neither the so-called south pole star, nor the remarkable constellation of the Southern Cross, can be seen simultaneously from every meridian, showing that all the constellations of the south--pole star included--sweep over a great southern arc and across the meridian, from their rise in the evening to their setting in the morning. But if the earth is a globe, Sigma Octantis a south pole star, and the Southern Cross a southern circumpolar constellation, they would all be visible at the same time from every longitude on the same latitude, as is the case with the northern pole star and the northern circumpolar constellations. Such, however,
is strangely not the case; Sir James Clarke Ross did not see it until he was 8° south of the equator, and in longitude 30° W. 1
MM. Von Spix and Karl Von Martius, in their account of -their scientific travels in Brazil, in 1817-1820, relate that "on the 15th of June, in latitude 14° S, we beheld, for the first time, that glorious constellation of the southern heavens, the Cross, which is to navigators a token of peace, and, according to its position, indicates the hours of the night. We had long wished for this constellation as a guide to the other hemisphere; we therefore felt inexpressible pleasure when we perceived it in the resplendent firmament."
The great traveller Humboldt says:--
"We saw distinctly, for the first time, the cross of the south, on the nights of the 4th and 5th of July, in the 16th degree of latitude. It was strongly inclined, and appeared from time to time between the clouds. . . . The pleasure felt on discovering the Southern Cross was warmly shared in by such of the crew as had lived in the colonies."
If the Southern Cross is a circumpolar cluster of stars, it is a matter of absolute certainty that it could never be in-visible to navigators upon or south of the equator. It would always be seen far above the horizon, just as the "Great Bear" is at all times visible upon and north of the equator. More especially ought it to be at all times visible when the nearest star belonging to it is considerably nearer to the so-called "pole star of the south" than is the nearest of the stars in the "Great Bear" to the pole star of the north. Humboldt did not see the Southern Cross until he
was in the 16th latitude south, and then it was "strongly inclined," showing that it was rising in the east, and sharing in the general sweep of the stars from east to west, in common with the whole firmament of stars moving round the pole star of the northern region.
We have seen that wherever the motions of the stars are carefully examined, it is found that all are connected, and move in relation to the northern centre of the earth. There is nowhere to be found a "break" in the general connection. Except, indeed, what is called the "proper motion" of certain stars and groups of stars all move in the same general direction, concentric with the north pole, and with velocities increasing with radial distance from it. To remove every possible doubt respecting the motions of the stars from the central north to the most extreme south, a number of special observers, each completely free from the bias of education respecting the supposed rotundity of the earth, might be placed in various southern localities, to observe and record the motions of the well known southern constellation, not in relation to a supposed south pole star, but to the meridian and latitude of each position. This would satisfy a certain number of those who cannot divest themselves of the idea of rotundity, but is not at all necessary for the satisfaction of those who are convinced that the earth is a plane, and that the extreme south is a vast circumference instead of a polar centre. To these the evidence already adduced will be sufficiently demonstrative.
The points of certainty are the following:--
1st.--Wherever the experiment is made the stars in the zenith do not rise, culminate, and set in the same straight
line, or plane of latitude, as they would if the earth is a globe.
2nd.--The Southern Cross is not at all times visible from every point of the southern hemisphere, as the "Great Bear" is from every point in the northern, and as both must necessarily and equally be visible if the earth is globular. In reference to the several cases adduced of the Southern Cross not being visible until the observers had arrived in latitudes 8°, 14°, and 16° south, it cannot be said that they might not have cared to look for it, because we are assured that they "had long wished for it," and therefore must have been strictly on the look out as they advanced southwards. And when the traveller Humboldt saw it "the first time" it was "strongly inclined," and therefore low down on the eastern horizon, and therefore previously invisible, simply because it had not yet risen.
3rd.--The earth is a plane, with a northern centre, over which the stars (whether fixed in some peculiar substance or floating in some subtle medium is not yet known) move in concentric courses at different radial distances from the northern centre as far south as and wherever observations have been made. The evidence is the author's own experiments in Great Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, and many other places; the statements of several unbiassed and truthful friends, who have resided in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Rio Janeiro, Valparaiso, and other southern localities, and the several incidental statements already quoted.
4th--The southern region of the earth is not central, but circumferential; and therefore there is no southern pole, no south pole star, and no southern circumpolar constellations;
all statements to the contrary are doubtful, inconsistent with known facts, and therefore not admissible as evidence.
287:1 "South Sea Voyages," p. 19, vol. 1.