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« This dust is of a cinnamon color, and of a slightly earthy taste; so great is its tenuity, that it is unctuous to the touch, although, with a magnifying glass, small hard bodies are discovered resembling pyroxene, but foreign to the dust, and aceidentally mixed with it, when collected from the ground. Heat turns it first brown, then entirely black, and finally red, if it is intense. After the action of heat, we perceive in it, with the naked eye, a multitude of small shining laminæ of yellow mica ; it no longer effervesces with acids, and is found to have lost about a tenth of its weight. Its specific gravity, when freed from the hard bodies, is 2,07. It is composed of Silex
14,5 Carbonic Acid
84,5 * The loss is due to a resinous substance of a yellowish color, obtained by treating the powder with alcohol, and by causing evaporation to dryness : the weight of the residuum corresponded very nearly with the loss experienced in the analysis. This resinous matter gives the powder the property of deflagrating with nitre."
M. Chladni has made a complete catalogue of all the meteors of this kind which have been observed in various places; we shall give it here as published in the “ Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes” for 1826, omitting, however, several of the less important or less certain cases.
“ In the year 472 of our era (following the chronology of Calvisius, Playfair, etc.), 5th or 6th of November. A great fall of black dust (probably in the environs of Constantinople); the sky seemed to be on fire. Procopius and Marcellinus attributed this to Vesuvius. Menæa, Molog. Græc., Zonaras, Cedrenus, Theophanes.
652. At Constantinople, shower of red dust. Theophanes, Cedrenus, Matthew Erithr. 743. A meteor and dust in different places. Theophanes.
Middle of the ninth century. Red dust and a substance resembling coagulated blood. Continuat. of Georg. Monachus, Kazwini, El-Mazen.
869. Red shower for three days in the vicinity of Brixen. Hadrianus Barlandus. (Possibly this phenomenon was the same as the preceding.)
929. At Bagdad, redness of the sky, and fall of red sand. Quatremère. 1056. In Armenia, red snow. Matth. Eretz.
1110. In Armenia, province of Vaspouragan, in winter, during a dark night, fall of an inflamed substance into the lake of Van. The water was stained a blood color, and the earth cleft open in various places. Matth. Eretz. (Notices et Extraits de la Bibl., T. IX.)
1222 or 1219. Red snow in the vicinity of Viterbo. Biblioteca Italiana, T. XIX.
1543. Red shower in Westphalia. Suni Commentarii.
1548, 6th November, (probably in Thuringia.) Fall of a globe of fire with much noise ; after which a reddish substance was found on the earth resembling coagulated blood. Spangenberg.
1557. In Pomerania, large plates of a substance resembling coagulated blood. Mart. Zeiler, T. II. epist. 386.
1586, 3d Dec. At Verde (in Hanover) fall of much red and blackish matter with thunder and lightning, (fiery and detonating meteor.) This substance burnt the planks on which it fell. Manuscript of Salomon, senator at Bremen.
1652, in May. Viscous mass succeeding a luminous meteor, between Sienna and Rome. Miscell. Acad. Nat. Curios. ann. 9, 1690.
1678, 19th March. Red snow, near Genoa. Philos. Trans. 1678.
1686, 31st January. Near Rauden, in Courland, and at the same time in Norway and Pomerania, a great quantity of a membranous substance, friable and blackish, resembling half-burnt paper. Miscell. Acad. Nat. Cur. ann. 7. pro ann. 1688, in Append. (Baron Theodore de Grotthus has analyzed a portion of this substance, which was preserved in a cabinet of natural history, and found in it silex, iron, lime, carbon, magnesia, a very little chrome and sulphur, but no nickel.)
1711, 5th and 6th May. Shower at Orsion in Sweden. Act. Lit. Sueciæ. 1731.
1718, 24th March. Fall of a globe of fire on the island of Lethy, India. A gelatinous substance was found there afterward. Barchewitz.
1719. Shower of sand into the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by a luminous meteor. Mem. de l'Acad. des Sciences, 1719, Hist. p. 23. (This sand should have been more attentively examined.)
1721, about the middle of March, at Stuttgard. Meteor and red shower, very copious, according to a report written 21st March by a counsellor. Vischer.
1737, 21st May. Fall earth, capable of being attracted by the magnet, on the Adriatic between Monopoli and Lissa. Zanichelli, in the Opuscoli di Calogera, T. XVI.
1781, In Sicily. White dust which was not volcanic. Gioeni. Phil. Trans., T. LXXII.
1792, 27th, 28th and 29th August, (without cessation.) A shower of a substance resembling ashes, in the town of Paz, in Peru. This phenomenon could not be attributed to a volcano. Explosions had been heard and the whole sky illuminated. The dust caused bad headaches and fever in many persons. Mercurio Peruano, . T. VI. 1792.
1796, 8th March. A viscous matter was found in Lusatia aiter the fall of a globe of fire. Ann. de Gilbert, T. LV,
1803, 5th and 6th March, in Italy. Fall of red dust, dry in some places and moist in others. Opuscoli scelti, T. XXII.
1811, in July, near Heidelberg. Fall of a gelatinous substance after the explosion of a luminous meteor. Ann. de Gilbert. T. LXVI.
1813, 13th and 14th March, in Calabria, Tuscany, and Frioul. Great fall of red dust and of red snow, with much noise. Stones fell at the same time at Cutro, in Calabria. Bibl. Brit. October, 1813, and April, 1814. (Sementini found in the dust : silex 33 ; alumine 153 ; lime 114 ; iron 145 ; chrome 1; carbon 9. The loss was 15. It seems that Sementini did not seek for magnesia and nickel.)
1814, 3d and 4th July. Great fall of black dust in Canada, with appearance of fire. This event was similar to that of 472. Philos. Mag. vol. XLIV.
1814, night of 27 – 28th October, in the valley of Oneglia, near Genoa. Red rain. Giornale di Fisica, T. I. p. 32.
1814, 5th November. In the Doab, India. Each stone which had fallen, was found in a little heap of dust. Phil. Mag.
1815, towards the end of September. The sea south of India was covered to a great extent with dust, probably after a similar shower. Phil. Mag. July, 1816.
1816, 15th April. Red snow in different parts of the northern region of Italy. Giornale di Fisica, etc., T. I. 1818. p. 473.
1819, 13th August, at Amherst, Massachusetts. Fall of a gelatinous mass of an offensive smell, preceded by a luminous meteor. Silliman's Journal, II. 335.
1819, 5th September, at Studein, in Moravia, in the jurisdiction of Teltsch, between eleven and twelve o'clock, the sky being serene and tranquil, shower of small particles of earth proceeding from a small cloud, isolated and very bright. Hesperus, November, 1819; and Ann. de Gilbert, T. LXVIII.
1819, 5th November. Red shower in Flanders and in Holland. Ann. générales des Sciences Physiques. (Cobalt and muriatic acid were found in this shower.)
1819, in November, at Montreal and in the northern part of the United States. Black rain and snow accompanied by extraordinary darkness, shocks like those of an earthquake, detonations resembling explosions of artillery, and fiery appearances which were taken for very bright flashes of lightning. Ann. de Chimie, T. XV. Some persons attributed the phenomenon to the burning of a forest ; but the noise, the shocks, etc. prove it to be a real meteor, like those of 472, 1792, and 1814 (in Canada). It would seem that the black and brittle stones which fell at Alais, in 1806, were very similar, but in a more advanced stage of coagulation.
1821, 3d May, at 9 o'clock in the morning. Red shower in the environs of Giessen. Professor Zimmermann, having analyzed the reddish brown
sediment left by this shower, found in it chrome, oxyd of iron, silex, lime, carbon, a little magnesia and volatile particles, but no nickel.
1824, 13th August. Town of Mendoza, in the republic of Buenos Ayres. Dust fell from a black cloud. At fifty miles' distance the same cloud discharged itself a second time. Gazette de Buenos Ayres, 1st November, 1824.”
M. Chladni seems to suppose that most of the meteors described in the preceding catalogue, have the same origin with meteoric stones ; but other philosophers are of opinion that the wind has sufficient power to sweep from the surface of the earth large masses of various substances, lifting them to great heights in the atmosphere. We shall cite a recent fact in support of this latter opinion.
In Persia, in the province of Romoé, not far from Mount Ararat, there fell, in April, 1827, a shower of grain, which, in some places, covered the earth with a layer, six inches in thickness. Sheep ate of this grain, and the inhabitants afterwards took it and made tolerable bread of it. The Count de Soklen having received samples of this grain, and M. de la Ferronnays, our ambassador to Russia, having sent some to Paris, Messrs. Desfontaines and Thénard were able to examine it, and subject it to various experiments. M. Desfontaines immediately recognised it as a lichen, belonging probably to the genus lecidea, and the chemical analysis also identified it as a lichen
III. METEORIC STONES.
METEORIC stones are earthy masses which fall from the sky. Their origin still remains a mystery. Some suppose that they are thrown from volcanoes in the moon within the sphere of the earth's attraction; others, that they exist completely formed in the atmosphere, — that they move with great velocity after the manner of the planets, and that they fall upon our globe, when its action upon them becomes predominant; and finally, some consider them as fragaments of matter which are thrown out by our volcanoes to a great height, and which fall again after having described several revolutions about the earth. Although so many doubts still rest upon the origin of meteoric stones, it may confidently be affirmed that their existence has been fully established through Europe, from the commencement of the present century. We shall still quote from M. Chladni's chronological catalogue of meteoric stones which have fallen in different places; selecting the most remarkable instances since the year 1800.
1814, in March, from a communication made to the academy of Petersburg. Stones in the vicinity of Lontalax and Sawitaipal, not far from Wiborg, in Finland. These stones contained no nickel.
(Mr. Murray mentions in the Phil. Mag., for July, 1819, (p. 39,) the fall of a stone at Pulrose, in the Isle of Man, without giving any date; he merely says that the event was certain, and that the stone was very light, and resembled scoriæ. It was therefore like the stones which fell in Spain, 1438.)
1817, between the 2d and 3d of May. Masses probably fell into the Baltic sea. After the appearance of a great meteor at Gottenburg, a shower of fire was seen, at Odensee, descending very rapidly towards the S. E. Danish Journals.
1818, 15th February. A large stone fell, at Limoges, into a garden south of the town. A mass, which fell after the explosion of a great meteor, made an excavation in the earth equal in size to a large cask. Gazette de France, and Journal du Commerce, 25th February, 1818.
(It is to be regretted that the mass was not taken from the earth and examined.)
1824, towards the close of January. Many stones near Arenazzo, in the territory of Bologna. One of them, weighing twelve pounds, is preserved in the Observatory of Bologna. Diario di Roma.
1824, 14th October. Near Zebrak, circle of Beraun, in Bohemia. The stone is preserved in the national Museum at Prague.
The inhabitants of China, Japan, and the neighbouring provinces, have bestowed particular attention on the phenomenon of meteoric stones ; they have also their catalogue raisonné of all these falls of stone ; and this catalogue is much more complete than ours, extending back to the 7th century before the Christian era. M. Abel-Rémusat published in 1819 (Journal de Physique) a very interesting article on this subject. The Chinese ohservations are very remarkable, and we shall attempt to give an idea of them by citing some examples.
CHINESE OBSERVATIONS UPON THE FALL OF METEORIC STONES.
644 years before the Christian era, in the spring, the first moon and first day, ou-chin, of the new moon, five stones fell in the kingdom of Saung, (Ho-non.)
In the year 211 before the Christian era, the planet Mars being in the neighbourhood of Autares, a star fell at Toung-kiun, which became stone on reaching the earth. On this stone were engraved six characters signifying, The death of the emperor is near, and his empire shall be divided. The Emperor sent officers to the spot who seized and punished the authors of this fraud, and burnt the stone.
In the year 32 before the Christian era, ninth moon, the day ou-tseu, a globe of fire was discharged from the Great Bear. It was white and of great lustre. It was about 40 feet in length, and had the motion of a serpent.