A few years ago, some members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, after regretting the limited sphere of man's vision, and only feeling, from the telescope's revelations, an intense desire to know more of the universe, and a wish to dive deeper into the realms of space, suggested that could a telescope be placed at a great elevation, say 10,000 feet above the level of the sea, the observer would be able to scan a greater distance than had ever been seen before. In accordance with this suggestion, Professor C. Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, amply provided with instruments, went to the Peak of Teneriffe, and the history of his observations he has just made known. R. Stephen-son, Esq., kindly lent the Professor his yacht Titania; and under the auspices of the Lords of the Admiralty, and with the advice of Mr. Airy, and the good wishes of all, the little expedition left Cowes, June 22, 1856, and arrived at Teneriffe July 8th. Professor Smyth was accompanied by his wife, and a better assistant no astronomer ever had. They bivouacked on the top of Mount Guajara, 8,900 feet high, where the air was always calm, the temperature averaging 65, far above all clouds, and under a sky gloriously resplendent with stars. "A great plain of vapor," we use the Professor's own words, " floated in mid-air, at a hight of 4,000 feet, and ssparated many things from our vision. Beneath were a moist atmosphere, fruits, and gardens, and the abodes of man; above, an air inconceivably dry, in which the bare bones of the great mountain lay, oxydizing in all the variety of brilliant colors in the light of the sun by day and stars innumerable at night." The air was so clear that a star which only appeared of the 10th magnitude on the sea level, was one of the 14th from that height of observation. One thing has been clearly proved by this gentleman's observations, namely, that the most accurate observations can be made at a great hight, and that the penetrative power of the telescope is increased in the higher and dryer regions of the atmosphere. Sir Isaac Newton prophesied this fact, but it remained for the astronomers of the present day to test and prove the truth of the hypothesis, and as a result, we have no doubt but that an observatory will be established on Teneriffe by some people or nation. We should like such a place to be cosmopolitan—open to the astronomers of the world; for the stars shine alike on all men, and know no distinctions of flags or nationalities. They teach their lessons to all who will learn, and fill the immensity of space through which all nations roll.
This article was originally published with the title "The Great Astronomical Experiment"