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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Maintained a continuous daylight within the Astronaut


I

woke about 4h. 30m., and on a scrutiny of the instruments, felt satisfied that I was not far out in my calculations. A later hour, however, would afford a more absolute certainty. I was about to turn again to the interesting work of observation through the lens in the floor, when my attention was diverted by the sight of something like a whitish cloud visible through the upper window on my left hand. Examined by the telescope, its widest diameter might be at most ten degrees. It was faintly luminous, presenting an appearance very closely resembling that of a star cluster or nebula just beyond the power of resolution. As in many nebulae, there was a visible concentration in one part; but this did not occupy the centre, but a position more resembling that of the nucleus of a small tailless comet. The cloudlet might be a distant comet, it might be a less distant body of meteors clustering densely in some particular part of their orbit; and, unfortunately, I was not likely to solve the problem. Gradually the nebula changed its position, but not its form, seeming to move downwards and towards the stern of my vessel, as if I were passing it without approaching nearer. By the time that I was satisfied of this, hunger and even faintness warned me that I must not delay preparing my breakfast. When I had finished this meal and fulfilled some necessary tasks, practical and arithmetical, the hand of the chronometer indicated the eighth hour of my third day. I turned again somewhat eagerly
to the discometer, which showed an apparent distance of 360 terrestrial radii, and consequently a movement which had not materially varied from the rate of 11-1/4 radii per hour. By this time the diameter of the Earth was not larger in appearance than about 19', less than two-thirds that of the Sun; and she consequently appeared as a black disc covering somewhat more than one-third of his entire surface, but by no means concentrical. The halo had of course completely disappeared; but with the vernier it was possible to discern a narrow band or line of hazy grey around the black limb of the planet. She was moving, as seen from the Astronaut, very slightly to the north, and more decidedly, though very slowly, to the eastward; the one motion due to my deliberately chosen direction in space, the other to the fact that as my orbit enlarged I was falling, though as yet slowly, behind her. The sun now shone through, the various windows, and, reflected from the walls, maintained a continuous daylight within the Astronaut, as well diffused as by the atmosphere of Earth, strangely contrasting the star-spangled darkness outside.

At the beginning as at the end of my voyage, I steered a distinct course, governed by considerations quite different from those which controlled the main direction of my voyage. Thus far I had simply risen straight from the Earth in a direction somewhat to the southward, but on the whole "in opposition," or right away from the Sun. So, at the conclusion of my journey, I should have to devote some days to a gradual descent upon Mars, exactly reversing the process of my ascent from the Earth. But between these two periods I had comparatively little to do with either planet, my course being governed by the Sun, and its direction and rate being uniform. I wished to reach Mars at the moment of opposition, and during the whole of the journey to keep the Earth between myself and the Sun, for a reason which may not at first be obvious. The moment of opposition is not necessarily


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