National Geographic : 1939 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE circling Jupiter besides the nine already known. A cataclysmic crumbling of one or more moons probably produced the "rings" of Saturn, next beyond Jupiter outward from the Sun. The terrific gravitational pull of the parent planet, it is believed, caused the luckless moons to disintegrate. The three flat rings, only 10 miles thick, but 41,500 miles wide, are composed of mil lions of tiny moon-fragments circling to gether around the planet (Color Plate II). Nine other larger individual moons, still intact, move around Saturn farther out. Uranus and Neptune are so far away that little is known about them, save that they are of much the same construction as Jupiter and Saturn. HOW A NEW WORLD WAS FOUND Early in this century astronomers noticed that Uranus had an unexplained "waver" in its orbit. Dr. Percival Lowell, founder of Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, suspected that the gravitational pull of an undiscovered planet was the cause. In 1915 he announced his definite belief that such a planet existed, and predicted where it would be found. To look for the planet, a certain region of the sky was divided into sections, and each section photographed twice, a few nights apart. When the two pictures of each section were compared, the stars in them would not have changed position, but a planet, being much nearer the Earth, would have moved noticeably (page 7). Dr. Lowell began the search before his death in 1916. The hunt was resumed in 1929, with improved equipment. Clyde Tombaugh, a young assistant at Lowell, was taught to make and compare the photo graphs. On February 18, 1930, he found that a point of light in one of the sections of the sky had moved between pictures. The orbit and behavior of this body proved to be very close to what Dr. Lowell had predicted. It was the long-sought ninth planet, nearly four billion miles from the Sun. "Solar System's Eternal Show" The eight astronomical pictures accompany ing this article were painted by Charles Bit tinger, of Washington, D. C., a pioneer in the field of scientific painting. In these paintings Mr. Bittinger has com bined a fine sense of color values and artistic composition with a painstaking effort to achieve scientific accuracy. Small details of shadows and angles in the pictures, hardly noticeable to the layman, were worked out by the artist as carefully as the more obvious features. In this he received valuable assistance from members of the staffs of the United States Naval Ob servatory, Mount Wilson Observatory. Pasa dena, California, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, and the National Bureau of Standards. In 1937 Mr. Bittinger was a member of the National Geographic Society-U. S. Navy Eclipse Expedition to Canton Island in the Pacific Ocean to observe the total eclipse of the Sun on June 8 of that year. He executed an impressive painting of the eclipse, which was reproduced in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for June, 1938, and is now on ex hibit at the New York World's Fair. Originally Mr. Bittinger planned a career in physics, and devoted three years to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But an increasing interest in art led him to change his plans, and he spent four years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Paintings by Charles Bittinger now hang in the National Arts Club of New York. the Art Museum of St. Louis, the Boston Athenaeum, and the Metropolitan Museum of New York. He is a member of the National Academy of Design. election to which is one of the highest honors in American art, and winner of many prizes and awards. Mr. Bittinger has pioneered in "changeable paintings." Such a painting may appear as a portrait when illuminated by ordinary light, but changes to a landscape when light from a different part of the spectrum is thrown upon it. On the walls of a room at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia are three murals done by him in fluorescent paints, visible only when ultraviolet light is thrown upon them. Under ordinary light the walls appear white. A beautiful painting of the spectrum of the Sun, by Mr. Bittinger, adorns the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington. The solar spectrum in Webster's New Inter national Dictionary of the English Language was painted by Mr. Bittinger. "In planning and working out the paintings which accompany this article," said Mr. Bit tinger, "I came to feel more than ever that astronomy is the greatest monument to human intelligence, which has explored out into un imaginable depths of space with nothing more tangible than the fragile waves of light. "Astronomy gives us, as nothing else can, an appreciation of the power and wisdom of the unseen hand of the Creator which has produced and governs this stupendous Universe."