A Journey in Other Worlds
The following day, while in their observatory, they saw something not many miles ahead.
They watched it for hours, and in fact all day, but notwithstanding their tremendous speed
they came but little nearer.
"They say a stern chase is a long one," said Bearwarden; but that beats anything I have
After a while, however, they found they WERE nearer, the time taken having been in part
due to the deceptive distance, which was greater than they supposed.
"A comet!" exclaimed Cortlandt excitedly. "We shall really be able to examine it near."
"It's going in our direction," said Ayrault, "and at almost exactly our speed."
While the sun shone full upon it they brought their camera into play, and again succeeded
in photographing a heavenly body at close range. The nucleus or head was of course
turned towards the sun; while the tail, which they could see faintly, preceded it, as the
comet was receding towards the cold and dark depths of space. The head was only a few
miles in diameter, for it was a small comet, and was composed of grains and masses of
stone and meteoric iron. Many of the grains were no larger than peas or mustard-seeds;
no mass was more than four feet in diameter, and all of them had very irregular shapes.
The space between the particles was never less than one hundred times their masses.
"We can move about within it," said Ayrault, as the Callisto entered the aggregation of
particles, and moved slowly forward among them.
The windows in the dome, being made of toughened glass, set somewhat slantingly so as
to deflect anything touching them, and having, moreover, the pressure of the inside air to
sustain them, were fairly safe, while the windows in the sides and base were but little
exposed. Whenever a large mass seemed dangerously near the glass, they applied an
apergetic shock to it and sent it kiting among its fellows. At these times the Callisto
recoiled slightly also, the resulting motion in either being in inverse ratio to its weight.
There was constant and incessant movement among the individual fragments, but it was
not rotary. Nothing seemed to be revolving about anything else; all were moving,
apparently swinging back and forth, but no collisions took place. When the separate
particles got more than a certain distance apart they reapproached one another, but when
seemingly within about one hundred diameters of each other they swung off in some
other direction. The motion was like that of innumerable harp-strings, which may
approach but never strike one another. After a time the Callisto seemed to become
endowed with the same property that the fragments possessed; for it and they repelled
one another, on a near approach, after which nothing came very near.