It has for some time been considered a set tled question among philosophers, that the moon has no atmosphere—the celebrated l;Moon Story" of Richard M. Locke, to the contrary, notwithstanding. The fact relied upon to prove that the moon has no atmos phere is, that upon the occupation of a star by the intervention of the moon, there is no re fraction of light, which there would be if it passed through an atmosphere; and further, that no clouds or anything like vapor has been discovered about the moon, nor any thing indicating the existence of either ani mal or vegetable lite. Of late, however, an astronomer at Rome, M. Decuppis has devoted himself much to se lenography, and has arrived at the conclusion deduced from a great number of observations that the moon has an atmosphere, though on a very moderate scale, it being only about a quarter of a mile in height, two hundred times less, probably, than the height of the earth's atmosphere, and ot only the thirtieth part of its density ; and further, that there are mountains which rise six or seven miles above the atmosphere, and when the star dis appears behind them, there is no refraction ; but if it disappears behind a valley or plain over which there is an atmosphere, then some refraction, though very slight, is perceptible, and of course there is an atmosphere. There are those who believe that the shal low atmosphere ot M. Decuppis, may be one like that belonging to our planet in the couise of formation. Many geologists entertain the opinion that there was a time when the at mosphere of this earth was chiefly composed of carbonic acid gas, and that races of ani mals lived in it, they having organs specially adapted for living in the same. The valleys of the moon may be filled with carbonic or sulphurous acid gas, as they are exceedingly deep, and the regions volcanic. If the nebular hypothesis is correct, the moon should have an atmosphere like that of our earth in proportion to its magnitude, conse quently no one who believes in that hypothe sis can consistently say a word about the pro bability of a new atmosphere now forming in the moon. If any person studies the question of the " Earth's Atmosphere," its peculiar na ture, such as the gases ot which it is formed, their quality, weight, and mixture, and takes into consideration the law ot gaseous absorp tion, and its relation and adaptibility to man, he cannot but be convinced that it was made by the special act of a Great, Intelligent Being.
This article was originally published with the title "Has the Moon an Atmosphere" in Scientific American 8, 28, 219 (March 1853)