From the Earth to the Moon HTML version
Chapter 5. The Romance Of The Moon
An observer endued with an infinite range of vision, and placed in that unknown center
around which the entire world revolves, might have beheld myriads of atoms filling all
space during the chaotic epoch of the universe. Little by little, as ages went on, a change
took place; a general law of attraction manifested itself, to which the hitherto errant
atoms became obedient: these atoms combined together chemically according to their
affinities, formed themselves into molecules, and composed those nebulous masses with
which the depths of the heavens are strewed. These masses became immediately endued
with a rotary motion around their own central point. This center, formed of indefinite
molecules, began to revolve around its own axis during its gradual condensation; then,
following the immutable laws of mechanics, in proportion as its bulk diminished by
condensation, its rotary motion became accelerated, and these two effects continuing, the
result was the formation of one principal star, the center of the nebulous mass.
By attentively watching, the observer would then have perceived the other molecules of
the mass, following the example of this central star, become likewise condensed by
gradually accelerated rotation, and gravitating round it in the shape of innumerable stars.
Thus was formed the Nebulae, of which astronomers have reckoned up nearly 5,000.
Among these 5,000 nebulae there is one which has received the name of the Milky Way,
and which contains eighteen millions of stars, each of which has become the center of a
If the observer had then specially directed his attention to one of the more humble and
less brilliant of these stellar bodies, a star of the fourth class, that which is arrogantly
called the Sun, all the phenomena to which the formation of the Universe is to be
ascribed would have been successively fulfilled before his eyes. In fact, he would have
perceived this sun, as yet in the gaseous state, and composed of moving molecules,
revolving round its axis in order to accomplish its work of concentration. This motion,
faithful to the laws of mechanics, would have been accelerated with the diminution of its
volume; and a moment would have arrived when the centrifugal force would have
overpowered the centripetal, which causes the molecules all to tend toward the center.
Another phenomenon would now have passed before the observer's eye, and the
molecules situated on the plane of the equator, escaping like a stone from a sling of
which the cord had suddenly snapped, would have formed around the sun sundry
concentric rings resembling that of Saturn. In their turn, again, these rings of cosmical
matter, excited by a rotary motion about the central mass, would have been broken up
and decomposed into secondary nebulosities, that is to say, into planets. Similarly he
would have observed these planets throw off one or more rings each, which became the
origin of the secondary bodies which we call satellites.
Thus, then, advancing from atom to molecule, from molecule to nebulous mass, from that
to principal star, from star to sun, from sun to planet, and hence to satellite, we have the