Part 6 out of 7
4,738,160 square leagues, 3,317,600 of which go for volcanoes, chains of
mountains, amphitheatres, islands--in a word, all that seems to form the
solid portion of the globe--and 1,410,400 leagues for the seas, lake,
marshes, and all that seems to form the liquid portion, all of which was
perfectly indifferent to the worthy Michel.
It will be noticed that this hemisphere is thirteen and a-half times
smaller than the terrestrial hemisphere. And yet upon it selenographers
have already counted 50,000 craters. It is a rugged surface worthy of
the unpoetical qualification of "green cheese" which the English have
When Barbicane pronounced this disobliging name Michel Ardan gave a
"That is how the Anglo-Saxons of the 19th century treat the beautiful
Diana, the blonde Phoebe, the amiable Isis, the charming Astarte, the
Queen of Night, the daughter of Latona and Jupiter, the younger sister
of the radiant Apollo!"
It has already been pointed out that the direction followed by the
projectile was taking us towards the northern hemisphere of the moon.
The travellers were far from that central point which they ought to have
touched if their trajectory had not suffered an irremediable deviation.
It was half-past twelve at night. Barbicane then estimated his distance
at 1,400 kilometres, a distance rather greater than the length of the
lunar radius, and which must diminish as he drew nearer the North Pole.
The projectile was then not at the altitude of the equator, but on the
tenth parallel, and from that latitude carefully observed on the map as
far as the Pole, Barbicane and his two companions were able to watch the
moon under the most favourable circumstances.
In fact, by using telescopes, this distance of 1,400 kilometres was
reduced to fourteen miles, or four and a-half leagues. The telescope of
the Rocky Mountains brought the moon still nearer, but the terrestrial
atmosphere singularly lessened its optical power. Thus Barbicane, in his
projectile, by looking through his glass, could already perceive certain
details almost imperceptible to observers on the earth.
"My friends," then said the president in a grave voice, "I do not know
where we are going, nor whether we shall ever see the terrestrial globe
again. Nevertheless, let us do our work as if one day it would be of use
to our fellow-creatures. Let us keep our minds free from all
preoccupation. We are astronomers. This bullet is the Cambridge
Observatory transported into space. Let us make our observations."
That said, the work was begun with extreme precision, and it faithfully
reproduced the different aspects of the moon at the variable distances
which the projectile reached in relation to that orb.
Whilst the bullet was at the altitude of the 10th north parallel it
seemed to follow the 20th degree of east longitude.
Here may be placed an important remark on the subject of the map which
they used for their observations. In the selenographic maps, where, on
account of the reversal of objects by the telescope, the south is at the
top and the north at the bottom, it seems natural that the east should
be on the left and the west on the right. However, it is not so. If the
map were turned upside down, and showed the moon as she appears, the
east would be left and the west right, the inverse of the terrestrial
maps. The reason of this anomaly is the following:--Observers situated
in the northern hemisphere--in Europe, for example--perceive the moon in
the south from them. When they look at her they turn their backs to the
north, the opposite position they take when looking at a terrestrial
map. Their backs being turned to the north, they have the east to the
left and the west to the right. For observers in the southern
hemisphere--in Patagonia, for example--the west of the moon would be on
their left and the east on their right, for the south would be behind
Such is the reason for the apparent reversal of these two cardinal
points, and this must be remembered whilst following the observations of
Helped by the _Mappa Selenographica_ of Boeer and Moedler, the
travellers could, without hesitating, survey that portion of the disc in
the field of their telescopes.
"What are we looking at now?" asked Michel.
"At the northern portion of the Sea of Clouds," answered Barbicane. "We
are too far off to make out its nature. Are those plains composed of
dry sand, as the first astronomers believed? Or are they only immense
forests, according to the opinion of Mr. Waren de la Rue, who grants a
very low but very dense atmosphere to the moon? We shall find that out
later on. We will affirm nothing till we are quite certain."
"This Sea of Clouds is rather doubtfully traced upon the maps. It is
supposed that this vast plain is strewn with blocks of lava vomited by
the neighbouring volcanoes on its right side, Ptolemy, Purbach, and
Arzachel. The projectile was drawing sensibly nearer, and the summits
which close in this sea on the north were distinctly visible. In front
rose a mountain shining gloriously, the top of which seemed drowned in
the solar rays."
"That mountain is--?" asked Michel.
"Copernicus," answered Barbicane.
"Let us have a look at Copernicus," said Michel.
This mountain, situated in north latitude 9 deg., and east longitude 20 deg.,
rises to a height of nearly 11,000 feet above the surface of the moon.
It is quite visible from the earth, and astronomers can study it with
ease, especially during the phase between the last quarter and the new
moon, because then shadows are thrown lengthways from east to west, and
allow the altitudes to be taken.
Copernicus forms the most important radiating system in the southern
hemisphere, according to Tycho Brahe. It rises isolated like a gigantic
lighthouse over that of the Sea of Clouds bordering on the Sea of
Tempests, and it lights two oceans at once with its splendid rays. Those
long luminous trails, so dazzling at full moon, made a spectacle without
an equal; they pass the boundary chains on the north, and stretch as far
as the Sea of Rains. At 1 a.m., terrestrial time, the projectile, like a
balloon carried into space, hung over this superb mountain.
Barbicane could perfectly distinguish its chief features. Copernicus is
comprehended in the series of annular mountains of the first order in
the division of the large amphitheatres. Like the mountains of Kepler
and Aristarchus, which overlook the Ocean of Tempests, it appears
sometimes like a brilliant point through the pale light, and used to be
taken for a volcano in activity. But it is only an extinct volcano, like
those on that side of the moon. Its circumference presented a diameter
of about twenty-two leagues. The glasses showed traces of
stratifications in it produced by successive eruptions, and its
neighbourhood appeared strewn with volcanic remains, which were still
seen in the crater.
"There exist," said Barbicane, "several sorts of amphitheatres an the
surface of the moon, and it is easy to see that Copernicus belongs to
the radiating class. If we were nearer it we should perceive the cones
which bristle in the interior, and which were formerly so many fiery
mouths. A curious arrangement, and one without exception on the lunar
disc, is presented on the interior surface of these amphitheatres, being
notably downward from the exterior plane, a contrary form to that which
terrestrial craters present. It follows, therefore, that the general
curvature at the bottom of these amphitheatres gives us fear of an
inferior diameter to that of the moon."
"What is the reason of this special arrangement?" asked Nicholl.
"It is not known," answered Barbicane.
"How splendidly it shines!" said Michel. "I think it would be difficult
to see a more beautiful spectacle!"
"What should you say, then," answered Barbicane, "if the chances of our
journey should take us towards the southern hemisphere?"
"Well, I should say it is finer still," replied Michel Ardan.
At that moment the projectile hung right over the amphitheatre. The
circumference of Copernicus formed an almost perfect circle, and its
steep ramparts were clearly defined. A second circular inclosure could
even be distinguished. A grey plain of wild aspect spread around on
which every relief appeared yellow. At the bottom of the amphitheatre,
as if in a jewel-case, sparkled for one instant two or three eruptive
cones like enormous dazzling gems. Towards the north the sides of the
crater were lowered into a depression which would probably have given
access to the interior of the crater.
As they passed above the surrounding plain Barbicane was able to note a
large number of mountains of slight importance, amongst others a little
circular mountain called "Gay-Lussac," more than twenty-three kilometres
wide. Towards the south the plain was very flat, without one elevation
or projection of the soil. Towards the north, on the contrary, as far as
the place where it borders on the Ocean of Tempests, it was like a
liquid surface agitated by a storm, of which the hills and hollows
formed a succession of waves suddenly coagulated. Over the whole of
this, and in all directions, ran the luminous trails which converged to
the summit of Copernicus. Some had a width of thirty kilometres over a
length that could not be estimated.
The travellers discussed the origin of these strange rays, but they
could not determine their nature any better than terrestrial observers.
"Why," said Nicholl, "may not these rays be simply the spurs of the
mountains reflecting the light of the sun more vividly?"
"No," answered Barbicane, "if it were so in certain conditions of the
moon they would throw shadows, which they do not."
In fact, these rays only appear when the sun is in opposition with the
moon, and they disappear as soon as its rays become oblique.
"But what explanation of these trails of light have been imagined?"
asked Michel, "for I cannot believe that _savants_ would ever stop short
for want of explanation."
"Yes," answered Barbicane, "Herschel has uttered an opinion, but he does
not affirm it."
"Never mind; what is his opinion?"
"He thought that these rays must be streams of cold lava which shone
when the sun struck them normally."
"That may be true, but nothing is less certain. However, if we pass
nearer to Tycho we shall be in a better position to find out the cause
of this radiation."
"What do you think that plain is like, seen from the height we are at?"
"I don't know," answered Nicholl.
"Well, with all these pieces of lava, sharpened like spindles, it looks
like 'an immense game of spilikins,' thrown down pell-mell. We only want
a hook to draw them up."
"Be serious for once in your life," said Barbicane.
"I will be serious," replied Michel tranquilly, "and instead of
spilikins let us say they are bones. This plain would then be only an
immense cemetery upon which would repose the immortal remains of a
thousand distinct generations. Do you like that comparison better?"
"One is as good as the other," answered Barbicane.
"The devil! You are difficult to please," replied Michel.
"My worthy friend," resumed the prosaic Barbicane, "it does not matter
what it looks like when we don't know what it is."
"A good answer," exclaimed Michel; "that will teach me to argue with
In the meantime the projectile went with almost uniform speed round the
lunar disc. It may be easily imagined that the travellers did not dream
of taking a minute's rest. A fresh landscape lay before their eyes every
instant. About half-past one in the morning they caught a glimpse of the
summit of another mountain. Barbicane consulted his map, and recognised
It was a circular mountain 4,500 metres high, one of those amphitheatres
so numerous upon the satellite. Barbicane informed his friends of
Kepler's singular opinion upon the formation of these circles.
According to the celebrated mathematician, these crateriform cavities
had been dug out by the hand of man.
"What for?" asked Nicholl.
"In order to preserve themselves from the ardour of the solar rays,
which strike the moon during fifteen consecutive days."
"The Selenites were not fools!" said Michel.
"It was a singular idea!" answered Nicholl. "But it is probable that
Kepler did not know the real dimensions of these circles, for digging
them would have been giants' labour, impracticable for Selenites."
"Why so, if the weight on the surface of the moon is six times less than
upon the surface of the earth?" said Michel.
"But if the Selenites are six times smaller?" replied Nicholl.
"And if there are no Selenites?" added Barbicane, which terminated the
Eratosthenes soon disappeared from the horizon without the projectile
having been sufficiently near it to allow a rigorous observation. This
mountain separated the Apennines from the Carpathians.
In lunar orography, several chains of mountains have been distinguished
which are principally distributed over the northern hemisphere. Some,
however, occupy certain portions of the southern hemisphere.
The following is a list of these different chains, with their latitudes
and the height of their highest summits:--
deg. deg. metres.
Mounts Doerfel 84 to 0 S. lat. 7,603
" Leibnitz 65 " 0 " 7,600
" Rook 20 " 30 " 1,600
" Altai 17 " 28 " 4,047
" Cordilleras 10 " 20 " 3,898
" Pyrenees 8 " 18 " 3,631
" Oural 5 " 13 " 838
" Alembert 4 " 10 " 5,847
" Hoemus 8 " 21 N. lat. 2,021
" Carpathians 15 " 19 " 1,939
" Apennines 14 " 27 " 5,501
" Taurus 21 " 28 " 2,746
" Riphees 25 " 33 " 4,171
" Hercynians 17 " 29 " 1,170
" Caucasia 32 " 41 " 5,567
" Alps 42 " 49 " 3,617
The most important of these different chains is that of the Apennines,
the development of which extends 150 leagues, and is yet inferior to
that of the great orographical movements of the earth. The Apennines run
along the eastern border of the Sea of Rains, and are continued on the
north by the Carpathians, the profile of which measures about 100
The travellers could only catch a glimpse of the summit of these
Apennines which lie between west long. 10 deg. and east long. 16 deg.; but the
chain of the Carpathians was visible from 18 deg. to 30 deg. east long., and
they could see how they were distributed.
One hypothesis seemed to them very justifiable. Seeing that this chain
of the Carpathians was here and there circular in form and with high
peaks, they concluded that it anciently formed important amphitheatres.
These mountainous circles must have been broken up by the vast cataclysm
to which the Sea of Rains was due. These Carpathians looked then what
the amphitheatres of Purbach, Arzachel, and Ptolemy would if some
cataclysm were to throw down their left ramparts and transform them into
continuous chains. They present an average height of 3,200 metres, a
height comparable to certain of the Pyrenees. Their southern slopes fall
straight into the immense Sea of Rains.
About 2 a.m. Barbicane was at the altitude of the 20th lunar parallel,
not far from that little mountain, 1,559 metres high, which bears the
name of Pythias. The distance from the projectile to the moon was only
1,200 kilometres, brought by means of telescopes to two and a half
The "Mare Imbrium" lay before the eyes of the travellers like an immense
depression of which the details were not very distinct. Near them on the
left rose Mount Lambert, the altitude of which is estimated at 1,813
metres, and farther on, upon the borders of the Ocean of Tempests, in
north lat. 23 deg. and east long. 29 deg., rose the shining mountain of Euler.
This mountain, which rises only 1,815 metres above the lunar surface,
has been the object of an interesting work by the astronomer Schroeter.
This _savant_, trying to find out the origin of the lunar mountains,
asked himself whether the volume of the crater always looked equal to
the volume of the ramparts that formed it. Now this he found to be
generally the case, and he hence concluded that a single eruption of
volcanic matter had sufficed to form these ramparts, for successive
eruptions would have destroyed the connection. Mount Euler alone was an
exception to this general law, and it must have taken several successive
eruptions to form it, for the volume of its cavity is double that of its
All these hypotheses were allowable to terrestrial observers whose
instruments were incomplete; but Barbicane was no longer contented to
accept them, and seeing that his projectile drew regularly nearer the
lunar disc he did not despair of ultimately reaching it, or at least of
finding out the secrets of its formation.
At half-past two in the morning the bullet was over the 30th lunar
parallel at an effective distance of 1,000 kilometres, reduced by the
optical instruments to ten. It still seemed impossible that it could
reach any point on the disc. Its movement of translation, relatively
slow, was inexplicable to President Barbicane. At that distance from the
moon it ought to have been fast in order to maintain it against the
power of attraction. The reason of that phenomenon was also
inexplicable; besides, time was wanting to seek for the cause. The
reliefs on the lunar surface flew beneath their eyes, and they did not
want to lose a single detail.
The disc appeared through the telescopes at a distance of two and a half
leagues. If an aeronaut were taken up that distance from the earth, what
would he distinguish upon its surface? No one can tell, as the highest
ascensions have not exceeded 8,000 metres.
The following, however, is an exact description of what Barbicane and
his companions saw from that height:--
Large patches of different colours appeared on the disc. Selenographers
do not agree about their nature. They are quite distinct from each
other. Julius Schmidt is of opinion that if the terrestrial oceans were
dried up, a Selenite observer could only tell the difference between the
terrestrial oceans and continental plains by patches of colour as
distinctly varied as those which a terrestrial observer sees upon the
moon. According to him, the colour common to the vast plains, known
under the name of "seas," is dark grey, intermingled with green and
brown. Some of the large craters are coloured in the same way.
Barbicane knew this opinion of the German selenographer; it is shared by
Messrs. Boeer and Moedler. He noticed that they were right, whilst
certain astronomers, who only allow grey colouring on the surface of the
moon, are wrong. In certain places the green colour was very vivid;
according to Julius Schmidt, it is so in the Seas of Serenity and
Humours. Barbicane likewise remarked the wide craters with no interior
cones, which are of a bluish colour, analogous to that of fresh-polished
sheets of steel. These colours really belonged to the lunar disc, and
did not result, as certain astronomers think, either from some
imperfection in the object-glasses of the telescopes or the
interposition of the terrestrial atmosphere. Barbicane had no longer any
doubt about it. He was looking at it through the void, and could not
commit any optical error. He considered that the existence of this
different colouring was proved to science. Now were the green shades
owing to tropical vegetation, kept up by a low and dense atmosphere? He
could not yet be certain.
Farther on he noticed a reddish tinge, quite sufficiently distinct. A
similar colour had already been observed upon the bottom of an isolated
inclosure, known under the name of the Lichtenberg Amphitheatre, which
is situated near the Hercynian Mountains, on the border of the moon. But
he could not make out its nature.
He was not more fortunate about another peculiarity of the disc, for he
could not find out its cause. The peculiarity was the following one:--
Michel Ardan was watching near the president when he remarked some long
white lines brilliantly lighted up by the direct rays of the sun. It was
a succession of luminous furrows, very different from the radiation that
Copernicus had presented. They ran in parallel lines.
Michel, with his usual readiness, exclaimed--
"Why, there are cultivated fields!"
"Cultivated fields!" repeated Nicholl, shrugging his shoulders.
"Ploughed fields, at all events," replied Michel Ardan. "But what
ploughmen these Selenites must be, and what gigantic oxen they must
harness to their ploughs, to make such furrows!"
"They are not furrows, they are crevices!"
"Crevices let them be," answered Michel with docility. "Only what do you
mean by crevices in the world of science?" Barbicane soon told his
companions all he knew about lunar crevices. He knew that they were
furrows observed upon all the non-mountainous parts of the lunar disc;
that these furrows, generally isolated, were from four to five leagues
only; that their width varies from 1,000 to 1,500 metres, and their
edges are rigorously parallel. But he knew nothing more about their
formation or their nature.
Barbicane watched these furrows through his telescope very attentively.
He noticed that their banks were exceedingly steep. They were long
parallel ramparts; with a little imagination they might be taken for
long lines of fortifications raised by Selenite engineers.
Some of these furrows were as straight as if they had been cut by line,
others were slightly curved through with edges still parallel. Some
crossed each other. Some crossed craters. Some furrowed the circular
cavities, such as Posidonius or Petavius. Some crossed the seas, notably
the Sea of Serenity.
These accidents of Nature had naturally exercised the imagination of
terrestrial astronomers. The earliest observations did not discover
these furrows. Neither Hevelius, Cassini, La Hire, nor Herschel seems to
have known them. It was Schroeter who in 1789 first attracted the
attention of _savants_ to them. Others followed who studied them, such
as Pastorff, Gruithuysen, Boeer, and Moedler. At present there are
seventy-six; but though they have been counted, their nature has not yet
been determined. They are not fortifications certainly, anymore than
they are beds of dried-up rivers, for water so light on the surface of
the moon could not have dug such ditches, and there furrows often cross
craters at a great elevation.
It must, however, be acknowledged that Michel Ardan had an idea, and
that, without knowing it, he shared it with Julius Schmidt.
"Why," said he, "may not these inexplicable appearances be simply
phenomena of vegetation?"
"In what way do you mean?" asked Barbicane.
"Now do not be angry, worthy president," answered Michel, "but may not
these black lines be regular rows of trees?"
"Do you want to find some vegetation?" said Barbicane.
"I want to explain what you scientific men do not explain! My hypothesis
will at least explain why these furrows disappear, or seem to disappear,
at regular epochs."
"Why should they?"
"Because trees might become invisible when they lose their leaves, and
visible when they grow again."
"Your explanation is ingenious, old fellow," answered Barbicane, "but it
cannot be admitted."
"Because it cannot be said to be any season on the surface of the moon,
and, consequently, the phenomena of vegetation on the surface of the
moon cannot be produced."
In fact, the slight obliquity of the lunar axis keeps the sun there at
an almost equal altitude under every latitude. Above the equatorial
regions the radiant orb almost invariably occupies the zenith, and
hardly passes the limit of the horizon in the polar regions. Therefore,
in each region, according to its position, there reigns perpetual
spring, summer, autumn, or winter, as in the planet Jupiter, whose axis
is also slightly inclined upon its orbit.
The origin of these furrows is a difficult question to solve. They are
certainly posterior to the formation of the craters and amphitheatres,
for several have crossed them, and broken their circular ramparts. It
may be that they are contemporary with the latest geographical epochs,
and are only owing to the expansion of natural forces.
In the meantime the projectile had reached the altitude of the 40th
degree of lunar latitude at a distance that could not be greater than
800 kilometres. Objects appeared through the telescopes at two leagues
only. At this point rose under their feet the Helicon, 505 metres high,
and on the left were the mediocre heights, which inclose a small portion
of the Sea of Rains under the name of the Gulf of Iris.
The terrestrial atmosphere ought to be 170 times more transparent than
it is in order to allow astronomers to make complete observations on the
surface of the moon. But in the void the projectile was moving in no
fluid lay between the eye of the observer and the object observed. What
is more, Barbicane was at a less distance than the most powerful
telescopes, even that of Lord Rosse or the one on the Rocky Mountains,
could give. It was, therefore, in circumstances highly favourable for
solving the great question of the habitability of the moon. Yet the
solution of this question escaped him still. He could only distinguish
the deserted beds of the immense plains, and, towards the north, arid
mountains. No labour betrayed the hand of man. No ruin indicated his
passage. No agglomeration of animals indicated that life was developed
there, even in an inferior degree. There was no movement anywhere, no
appearance of vegetation anywhere. Of the three kingdoms represented on
the terrestrial globe, one only was represented on that of the
moon--viz., the mineral kingdom.
"So," said Michel Ardan, looking rather put out, "there is nobody after
"No," answered Nicholl; "we have seen neither man, animal, nor tree as
yet. After all, if the atmosphere has taken refuge at the bottom of
cavities, in the interior of the amphitheatres, or even on the opposite
face of the moon, we cannot decide the question."
"Besides," added Barbicane, "even for the most piercing sight a man is
not visible at a distance of more than four miles. Therefore if there
are any Selenites they can see our projectile, but we cannot see them."
About 11 a.m., at the altitude of the 50th parallel, the distance was
reduced to 300 miles. On the left rose the capricious outlines of a
chain of mountains, outlined in full light. Towards the right, on the
contrary, was a large black hole like a vast dark and bottomless well
bored in the lunar soil.
That hole was the Black Lake, or Pluto, a deep circle from which the
earth could be conveniently studied between the last quarter and the new
moon, when the shadows are thrown from west to east.
This black colour is rarely met with on the surface of the satellite. It
has, as yet, only been seen in the depths of the circle of Endymion, to
the east of the Cold Sea, in the northern hemisphere, and at the bottom
of the circle of Grimaldi upon the equator towards the eastern border of
Pluto is a circular mountain, situated in north lat. 51 deg. and east long.
9 deg.. Its circle is fifty miles long and thirty wide. Barbicane regretted
not passing perpendicularly over this vast opening. There was an abyss
to see, perhaps some mysterious phenomenon to become acquainted with.
But the course of the projectile could not be guided. There was nothing
to do but submit. A balloon could not be guided, much less a projectile
when you are inside.
About 5 a.m. the northern limit of the Sea of Rains was at last passed.
Mounts La Condamine and Fontenelle remained, the one on the left, the
other on the right. That part of the disc, starting from the 60th
degree, became absolutely mountainous. The telescopes brought it to
within one league, an inferior distance to that between the summit of
Mont Blanc and the sea level. All this region was bristling with peaks
and amphitheatres. Mount Philolaus rose about the 70th degree to a
height of 3,700 metres, opening an elliptical crater sixteen leagues
long and four wide.
Then the disc, seen from that distance, presented an exceedingly strange
aspect. The landscapes were very different to earthly ones, and also
The moon having no atmosphere, this absence of vaporous covering had
consequences already pointed out. There is no twilight on its surface,
night following day and day following night, with the suddenness of a
lamp extinguished or lighted in profound darkness. There is no
transition from cold to heat: the temperature falls in one instant from
boiling water heat to the cold of space.
Another consequence of this absence of air is the following:--Absolute
darkness reigns where the sun's rays do not penetrate. What is called
diffused light upon the earth, the luminous matter that the air holds
in suspension, which creates twilights and dawns, which produces
shadows, penumbrae, and all the magic of the chiaro-oscuro, does not
exist upon the moon. Hence the harshness of contrasts that only admit
two colours, black and white. If a Selenite shades his eyes from the
solar rays the sky appears absolutely dark, and the stars shine as in
the darkest nights.
The impression produced on Barbicane and his two friends by this strange
state of things may well be imagined. They did not know how to use their
eyes. They could no longer seize the respective distances in
perspective. A lunar landscape, which does not soften the phenomenon of
the chiaro-oscuro, could not be painted by a landscape-painter of the
earth. It would be nothing but blots of ink upon white paper.
This aspect of things did not alter even when the projectile, then at
the altitude of the 80th degree, was only separated from the moon by a
distance of fifty miles, not even when, at 5 a.m., it passed at less
than twenty-five miles from the mountain of Gioja, a distance which the
telescopes reduced to half-a-mile. It seemed as if they could have
touched the moon. It appeared impossible that before long the projectile
should not knock against it, if only at the North Pole, where the
brilliant mountains were clearly outlined against the dark background of
the sky. Michel Ardan wanted to open one of the port-lights and jump
upon the lunar surface. What was a fall of twelve leagues? He thought
nothing of that. It would, however, have been a useless attempt, for if
the projectile was not going to reach any point on the satellite, Michel
would have been hurled along by its movement, and not have reached it
At that moment, 6 a.m., the lunar pole appeared. Only half the disc,
brilliantly lighted, appeared to the travellers, whilst the other half
disappeared in the darkness. The projectile suddenly passed the line of
demarcation between intense light and absolute darkness, and was
suddenly plunged into the profoundest night.
A NIGHT OF THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR HOURS AND A HALF.
At the moment this phenomenon took place the projectile was grazing the
moon's North Pole, at less that twenty-five miles' distance. A few
seconds had, therefore, sufficed to plunge it into the absolute darkness
of space. The transition had taken place so rapidly, without gradations
of light or attenuation of the luminous undulations, that the orb seemed
to have been blown out by a powerful gust.
"The moon has melted, disappeared!" cried Michel Ardan, wonder-stricken.
In fact, no ray of light or shade had appeared on the disc, formerly so
brilliant. The obscurity was complete, and rendered deeper still by the
shining of the stars. It was the darkness of lunar night, which lasts
354 hours and a half on each point of the disc--a long night, the result
of the equality of the movements of translation and rotation of the
moon, the one upon herself, the other round the earth. The projectile in
the satellite's cone of shadow was no longer under the action of the
In the interior darkness was, therefore, complete. The travellers could
no longer see one another. Hence came the necessity to lighten this
darkness. However desirous Barbicane might be to economise the gas, of
which he had so small a reserve, he was obliged to have recourse to it
for artificial light--an expensive brilliancy which the sun then
"The devil take the radiant orb!" cried Michel Ardan; "he is going to
force us to spend our gas instead of giving us his rays for nothing."
"We must not accuse the sun," said Nicholl. "It is not his fault, it is
the moon's fault for coming and putting herself like a screen between us
"It's the sun!" said Michel again.
"It's the moon!" retorted Nicholl.
An idle dispute began, which Barbicane put an end to by saying--
"My friends, it is neither the fault of the sun nor the moon. It is the
projectile's fault for deviating from its course instead of rigorously
following it. Or, to be juster still, it is the fault of that
unfortunate asteroid which so deplorably altered our first direction."
"Good!" answered Michel Ardan; "as that business is settled let us have
our breakfast. After a night entirely passed in making observations, we
want something to set us to rights a little."
This proposition met with no contradiction. Michel prepared the repast
in a few minutes. But they ate for the sake of eating. They drank
without toasts or hurrahs. The bold travellers, borne away into the
darkness of space without their accustomed escort of rays, felt a vague
uneasiness invade their hearts. The "farouche" darkness, so dear to the
pen of Victor Hugo, surrounded them on all sides.
In the meantime they talked about this interminable night, 354 hours, or
nearly 15 days, long, which physical laws have imposed upon the
inhabitants of the moon. Barbicane gave his friends some explanation of
the causes and consequences of this curious phenomenon.
"Curious it certainly is," said he, "for if each hemisphere of the moon
is deprived of solar light for fifteen days, the one over which we are
moving at this moment does not even enjoy, during its long night, a
sight of the brilliantly-lighted earth. In a word, there is no moon,
applying that qualification to our spheroid, except for one side of the
disc. Now, if it was the same upon earth--if, for example, Europe never
saw the moon, and she was only visible at the antipodes--you can figure
to yourselves the astonishment of a European on arriving in Australia."
"They would make the voyage for nothing but to go and see the moon,"
"Well," resumed Barbicane, "that astonishment is reserved to the
Selenite who inhabits the opposite side of the moon to the earth, a side
for ever invisible to our fellow-beings of the terrestrial globe."
"And which we should have seen," added Nicholl, "if we had arrived here
at the epoch when the moon is new--that is to say, a fortnight later."
"To make amends," resumed Barbicane, "an inhabitant of the visible face
is singularly favoured by Nature to the detriment on the invisible face.
The latter, as you see, has dark nights of 354 hours long, without a ray
of light to penetrate the obscurity. The other, on the contrary, when
the sun, which has lighted him for a fortnight, sets under the horizon,
sees on the opposite horizon a splendid orb rise. It is the earth,
thirteen times larger than that moon which we know--the earth, which is
developed to a diameter of two degrees, and which sheds a light thirteen
times greater, which no atmosphere qualifies; the earth, which only
disappears when the sun reappears."
"A fine sentence," said Michel Ardan; "rather academical perhaps."
"It follows," resumed Barbicane, nowise put out, "that the visible face
of the disc must be very agreeable to inhabit, as it is always lighted
by the sun or the moon."
"But," said Nicholl, "this advantage must be quite compensated by the
unbearable heat which this light must cause."
"This inconvenience is the same under two faces, for the light reflected
by the earth is evidently deprived of heat. However, this invisible face
is still more deprived of heat than the visible face. I say that for
you, Nicholl; Michel would probably not understand."
"Thank you," said Michel.
"In fact," resumed Barbicane, "when the invisible face receives the
solar light and heat the moon is new--that is to say, that she is in
conjunction, that she is situated between the sun and the earth. She is
then, on account of the situation which she occupies in opposition when
she is full, nearer the sun by the double of her distance from the
earth. Now this distance may be estimated at the two-hundredth part of
that which separates the sun and the earth; or, in round numbers, at two
hundred thousand leagues. Therefore this visible face is nearer the sun
by two hundred thousand leagues when it receives his rays."
"Quite right," replied Nicholl.
"Whilst--" resumed Barbicane.
"Allow me," said Michel, interrupting his grave companion.
"What do you want?"
"I want to go on with the explanation."
"To prove that I have understood."
"Go on, then," said Barbicane, smiling.
"Whilst," said Michel, imitating the tone and gestures of President
Barbicane, "when the visible face of the moon is lighted by the sun the
moon is full--that is to say, situated with regard to the earth the
opposite to the sun. The distance which separates it from the radiant
orb is then increased in round numbers by 200,000 leagues, and the heat
which it receives must be rather less."
"Well done!" exclaimed Barbicane. "Do you know, Michel, for an artist
you are intelligent."
"Yes," answered Michel carelessly, "we are all intelligent on the
Boulevard des Italiens."
Barbicane shook hands gravely with his amiable companion, and went on
enumerating the few advantages reserved to the inhabitants of the
Amongst others he quoted the observations of the sun's eclipses, which
can only be seen from one side of the lunar disc, because the moon must
be in opposition before they can take place. These eclipses, caused by
the interposition of the earth between the sun and the moon, may last
two hours, during which, on account of the rays refracted by its
atmosphere, the terrestrial globe can only appear like a black spot upon
"Then," said Nicholl, "the invisible hemisphere is very ill-treated by
"Yes," answered Barbicane, "but not the whole of it. By a certain
movement of liberation, a sort of balancing on its centre, the moon
presents more than the half of her disc to the earth. She is like a
pendulum, the centre of gravity of which is towards the terrestrial
globe, and which oscillates regularly. Whence comes that oscillation?
Because her movement of rotation on her axis is animated with uniform
velocity, whilst her movement of translation, following an elliptical
orb round the earth, is not. At the perigee the velocity of translation
is greater, and the moon shows a certain portion of her western border.
At her apogee the velocity of rotation is greater, and a morsel of her
eastern border appears. It is a strip of about eight degrees, which
appears sometimes on the west, sometimes on the east. The result is,
therefore, that of a thousand parts the moon shows five hundred and
"No matter," answered Michel; "if we ever become Selenites, we will
inhabit the visible face. I like light."
"Unless," replied Nicholl, "the atmosphere should be condensed on the
other side, as certain astronomers pretend."
"That is a consideration," answered Michel simply.
In the meantime breakfast was concluded, and the observers resumed their
posts. They tried to see through the dark port-light by putting out all
light in the projectile. But not one luminous atom penetrated the
One inexplicable fact preoccupied Barbicane. How was it that though the
projectile had been so near the moon, within a distance of twenty-five
miles, it had not fallen upon her? If its speed had been enormous, he
would have understood why it had not fallen. But with a relatively
slight speed the resistance to lunar attraction could not be explained.
Was the projectile under the influence of some strange force? Did some
body maintain it in the ether? It was henceforth evident that it would
not touch any point upon the moon. Where was it going? Was it going
farther away from or nearer to the disc? Was it carried along in the
gloom across infinitude? How were they to know, how calculate in the
dark? All these questions made Barbicane anxious, but he could not solve
In fact, the invisible orb was there, perhaps, at a distance of some
leagues only, but neither his companions nor he could any longer see it.
If any noise was made on its surface they could not hear it. The air,
that vehicle of transmission, was wanting to convey to them the groans
of that moon which the Arabian legends make "a man already half-granite,
but still palpitating."
It will be agreed that it was enough to exasperate the most patient
observers. It was precisely the unknown hemisphere that was hidden from
their eyes. That face which a fortnight sooner or a fortnight later had
been, or would be, splendidly lighted up by the solar rays, was then
lost in absolute darkness. Where would the projectile be in another
fortnight? Where would the hazards of attraction have taken it? Who
It is generally admitted that the invisible hemisphere of the moon is,
by its constitution, absolutely similar to the visible hemisphere.
One-seventh of it is seen in those movements of libration Barbicane
spoke of. Now upon the surface seen there were only plains and
mountains, amphitheatres and craters, like those on the maps. They could
there imagine the same arid and dead nature. And yet, supposing the
atmosphere to have taken refuge upon that face? Suppose that with the
air water had given life to these regenerated continents? Suppose that
vegetation still persists there? Suppose that animals people these
continents and seas? Suppose that man still lives under those conditions
of habitability? How many questions there were it would have been
interesting to solve! What solutions might have been drawn from the
contemplation of that hemisphere! What delight it would have been to
glance at that world which no human eye has seen!
The disappointment of the travellers in the midst of this darkness may
be imagined. All observation of the lunar disc was prevented. The
constellations alone were visible, and it must be acknowledged that no
astronomers, neither Faye, Chacornac, nor the Secchi, had ever been in
such favourable conditions to observe them.
In fact, nothing could equal the splendour of this starry world, bathed
in limpid ether. Diamonds set in the celestial vault threw out superb
flames. One look could take in the firmament from the Southern Cross to
the North Star, those two constellations which will in 12,000 years, on
account of the succession of equinoxes, resign their _roles_ of polar
stars, the one to Canopus in the southern hemisphere, the other to Wega
in the northern. Imagination lost itself in this sublime infinitude,
amidst which the projectile was moving like a new star created by the
hand of man. From natural causes these constellations shone with a soft
lustre; they did not twinkle because there was no atmosphere to
intervene with its strata unequally dense, and of different degrees of
humidity, which causes this scintillation.
The travellers long watched the constellated firmament, upon which the
vast screen of the moon made an enormous black hole. But a painful
sensation at length drew them from their contemplation. This was an
intense cold, which soon covered the glasses of the port-lights with a
thick coating of ice. The sun no longer warmed the projectile with his
rays, and it gradually lost the heat stored up in its walls. This heat
was by radiation rapidly evaporated into space, and a considerable
lowering of the temperature was the result. The interior humidity was
changed into ice by contact with the window-panes, and prevented all
Nicholl, consulting the thermometer, said that it had fallen to 17 deg.
(centigrade) below zero (1 deg. Fahr). Therefore, notwithstanding every
reason for being economical, Barbicane was obliged to seek heat as well
as light from gas. The low temperature of the bullet was no longer
bearable. Its occupants would have been frozen to death.
"We will not complain about the monotony of the journey," said Michel
Ardan. "What variety we have had, in temperature at all events! At times
we have been blinded with light, and saturated with heat like the
Indians of the Pampas! Now we are plunged into profound darkness amidst
boreal cold, like the Esquimaux of the pole! No, indeed! We have no
right to complain, and Nature has done many things in our honour!"
"But," asked Nicholl, "what is the exterior temperature?"
"Precisely that of planetary space," answered Barbicane.
"Then," resumed Michel Ardan, "would not this be an opportunity for
making that experiment we could not attempt when we were bathed in the
"Now or never," answered Barbicane, "for we are usefully situated in
order to verify the temperature of space, and see whether the
calculations of Fourier or Pouillet are correct."
"Any way it is cold enough," said Michel. "Look at the interior humidity
condensing on the port-lights. If this fall continues the vapour of our
respiration will fall around us in snow."
"Let us get a thermometer," said Barbicane.
It will be readily seen that an ordinary thermometer would have given no
result under the circumstances in which it was going to be exposed. The
mercury would have frozen in its cup, for it does not keep liquid below
44 deg. below zero. But Barbicane had provided himself with a spirit
thermometer, on the Walferdin system, which gives the minima of
excessively low temperature.
Before beginning the experiment this instrument was compared with an
ordinary thermometer, and Barbicane prepared to employ it.
"How shall we manage it?" asked Nicholl.
"Nothing is easier," answered Michel Ardan, who was never at a loss.
"Open the port-light rapidly, throw out the instrument; it will follow
the projectile with exemplary docility; a quarter of an hour after take
"With your hand?" asked Barbicane.
"With my hand," answered Michel.
"Well, then, my friend, do not try it," said Barbicane, "for the hand
you draw back will be only a stump, frozen and deformed by the frightful
"You would feel the sensation of a terrible burn, like one made with a
red-hot iron, for the same thing happens when heat is brutally
abstracted from our body as when it is inserted. Besides, I am not sure
that objects thrown out still follow us."
"Why?" said Nicholl.
"Because if we are passing through any atmosphere, however slightly
dense, these objects will be delayed. Now the darkness prevents us
verifying whether they still float around us. Therefore, in order not to
risk our thermometer, we will tie something to it, and so easily pull it
back into the interior."
Barbicane's advice was followed. Nicholl threw the instrument out of the
rapidly-opened port-light, holding it by a very short cord, so that it
could be rapidly drawn in. The window was only open one second, and yet
that one second was enough to allow the interior of the projectile to
become frightfully cold.
"_Mille diables!_" cried Michel Ardan, "it is cold enough here to freeze
Barbicane let half-an-hour go by, more than sufficient time to allow the
instrument to descend to the level of the temperature of space. The
thermometer was then rapidly drawn in.
Barbicane calculated the quantity of mercury spilt into the little phial
soldered to the lower part of the instrument, and said--
"One hundred and forty degrees centigrade below zero!" (218 deg. Fahr.)
M. Pouillet was right, not Fourier. Such was the frightful temperature
of sidereal space! Such perhaps that of the lunar continents when the
orb of night loses by radiation all the heat which she absorbs during
the fifteen days of sunshine.
HYPERBOLA OR PARABOLA.
Our readers will probably be astonished that Barbicane and his
companions were so little occupied with the future in store for them in
their metal prison, carried along in the infinitude of ether. Instead of
asking themselves where they were going, they lost their time in making
experiments, just as if they had been comfortably installed in their
It might be answered that men so strong-minded were above such
considerations, that such little things did not make them uneasy, and
that they had something else to do than to think about their future.
The truth is that they were not masters of their projectile--that they
could neither stop it nor alter its direction. A seaman can direct the
head of his ship as he pleases; an aeronaut can give his balloon
vertical movement. They, on the contrary, had no authority over their
vehicle. No manoeuvre was possible to them. Hence their not troubling
themselves, or "let things go" state of mind.
Where were they at that moment, 8 a.m. during that day called upon earth
the sixth of December? Certainly in the neighbourhood of the moon, and
even near enough for her to appear like a vast black screen upon the
firmament. As to the distance which separated them, it was impossible to
estimate it. The projectile, kept up by inexplicable forces, has grazed
the north pole of the satellite at less than twenty-five miles'
distance. But had that distance increased or diminished since they had
been in the cone of shadow? There was no landmark by which to estimate
either the direction or the velocity of the projectile. Perhaps it was
going rapidly away from the disc and would soon leave the pure shadow.
Perhaps, on the contrary, it was approaching it, and would before long
strike against some elevated peak in the invisible atmosphere, which
would have terminated the journey, doubtless to the detriment of the
A discussion began upon this subject, and Michel Ardan, always rich in
explanations, gave out the opinion that the bullet, restrained by lunar
attraction, would end by falling on the moon like an aerolite on to the
surface of the terrestrial globe.
"In the first place," answered Barbicane, "all aerolites do not fall
upon the surface of the earth; only a small proportion do so. Therefore,
if we are aerolites it does not necessarily follow that we shall fall
upon the moon."
"Still," answered Michel, "if we get near enough--"
"Error," replied Barbicane. "Have you not seen shooting stars by
thousands in the sky at certain epochs?"
"Well, those stars, or rather corpuscles, only shine by rubbing against
the atmospheric strata. Now, if they pass through the atmosphere, they
pass at less than 16 miles from our globe, and yet they rarely fall. It
is the same with our projectile. It may approach very near the moon, and
yet not fall upon it."
"But then," asked Michel, "I am curious to know how our vehicle would
behave in space."
"I only see two hypotheses," answered Barbicane, after some minutes'
"What are they?"
"The projectile has the choice between two mathematical curves, and it
will follow the one or the other according to the velocity with which it
is animated, and which I cannot now estimate."
"Yes, it will either describe a parabola or an hyperbola."
"Yes," answered Barbicane, "with some speed it will describe a parabola,
and with greater speed an hyperbola."
"I like those grand words!" exclaimed Michel Ardan. "I know at once what
you mean. And what is your parabola, if you please?"
"My friend," answered the captain, "a parabola is a conic section
arising from cutting a cone by a plane parallel to one of its sides."
"Oh!" said Michel in a satisfied tone.
"It is about the same trajectory that the bomb of a howitzer describes."
"Just so. And an hyperbola?" asked Michel.
"It is a curve formed by a section of a cone when the cutting plane
makes a greater angle with the base than the side of the cone makes."
"Is it possible?" exclaimed Michel Ardan in the most serious tone, as if
he had been informed of a grave event. "Then remember this, Captain
Nicholl, what I like in your definition of the hyperbola--I was going to
say of the hyperhumbug--is that it is still less easy to understand than
the word you pretend to define."
Nicholl and Barbicane paid no attention to Michel Ardan's jokes. They
had launched into a scientific discussion. They were eager about what
curve the projectile would take. One was for the hyperbola, the other
for the parabola. They gave each other reasons bristling with _x_'s.
Their arguments were presented in a language which made Michel Ardan
jump. The discussion was lively, and neither of the adversaries would
sacrifice his curve of predilection.
This scientific dispute was prolonged until Michel Ardan became
impatient, and said--
"I say, Messrs. Cosine, do leave off throwing your hyperbolas and
parabolas at one's head. I want to know the only interesting thing about
the business. We shall follow one or other of your curves. Very well.
But where will they take us to?"
"Nowhere," answered Nicholl.
"Evidently they are unfinished curves, prolonged indefinitely!"
"Ah, _savants_! What does it matter about hyperbola or parabola if they
both carry us indefinitely into space?"
Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing. They cared for art for
its own sake. Never had more useless question been discussed at a more
inopportune moment. The fatal truth was that the projectile, whether
hyperbolically or parabolically carried along, would never strike
against either the earth or the moon.
What would become of these bold travellers in the most immediate future?
If they did not die of hunger or thirst, they would in a few days, when
gas failed them, die for want of air, if the cold had not killed them
Still, although it was so important to economise gas, the excessive
lowness of the surrounding temperature forced them to consume a certain
quantity. They could not do without either its light or heat. Happily
the caloric developed by the Reiset and Regnault apparatus slightly
elevated the temperature of the projectile, and without spending much
they could raise it to a bearable degree.
In the meantime observation through the port-lights had become very
difficult. The steam inside the bullet condensed upon the panes and
froze immediately. They were obliged to destroy the opacity of the glass
by constant rubbing. However, they could record several phenomena of the
In fact, if the invisible disc had any atmosphere, the shooting stars
would be seen passing through it. If the projectile itself passed
through the fluid strata, might it not hear some noise echoed--a storm,
for instance, an avalanche, or a volcano in activity? Should they not
see the intense fulgurations of a burning mountain? Such facts,
carefully recorded, would have singularly elucidated the obscure
question of the lunar constitution. Thus Barbicane and Nicholl, standing
like astronomers at their port-lights, watched with scrupulous patience.
But until then the disc remained mute and dark. It did not answer the
multifarious interrogations of these ardent minds.
This provoked from Michel a reflection that seemed correct enough.
"If ever we recommence our journey, we shall do well to choose the epoch
when the moon is new."
"True," answered Nicholl, "that circumstance would have been more
favourable. I agree that the moon, bathed in sunlight, would not be
visible during the passage, but on the other hand the earth would be
full. And if we are dragged round the moon like we are now, we should
at least have the advantage of seeing the invisible disc magnificently
"Well said, Nicholl," replied Michel Ardan. "What do you think about it,
"I think this," answered the grave president: "if ever we recommence
this journey, we shall start at the same epoch, and under the same
circumstances. Suppose we had reached our goal, would it not have been
better to find the continents in full daylight instead of dark night?
Would not our first installation have been made under better
circumstances? Yes, evidently. As to the invisible side, we could have
visited that in our exploring expeditions on the lunar globe. So,
therefore, the time of the full moon was well chosen. But we ought to
have reached our goal, and in order to have reached it we ought not to
have deviated from our road."
"There is no answer to make to that," said Michel Ardan. "Yet we have
passed a fine opportunity for seeing the moon! Who knows whether the
inhabitants of the other planets are not more advanced than the
_savants_ of the earth on the subject of their satellites?"
The following answer might easily have been given to Michel Ardan's
remark:--Yes, other satellites, on account of their greater proximity,
have made the study of them easier. The inhabitants of Saturn, Jupiter,
and Uranus, if they exist, have been able to establish communication
with their moons much more easily. The four satellites of Jupiter
gravitate at a distance of 108,260 leagues, 172,200 leagues, 274,700
leagues, and 480,130 leagues. But these distances are reckoned from the
centre of the planet, and by taking away the radius, which is 17,000 to
18,000 leagues, it will be seen that the first satellite is at a much
less distance from the surface of Jupiter than the moon is from the
centre of the earth. Of the eight moons of Saturn, four are near. Diana
is 84,600 leagues off; Thetys, 62,966 leagues; Enceladus, 48,191
leagues; and lastly, Mimas is at an average distance of 34,500 leagues
only. Of the eighteen satellites of Uranus, the first, Ariel, is only
51,520 leagues from the planet.
Therefore, upon the surface of those three stars, an experiment
analogous to that of President Barbicane would have presented less
difficulties. If, therefore, their inhabitants have attempted the
enterprise, they have, perhaps, acquainted themselves with the
constitution of the half of the disc which their satellite hides
eternally from their eyes. But if they have never left their planet,
they do not know more about them than the astronomers of the earth.
In the meantime the bullet was describing in the darkness that
incalculable trajectory which no landmark allowed them to find out. Was
its direction altered either under the influence of lunar attraction or
under the action of some unknown orb? Barbicane could not tell. But a
change had taken place in the relative position of the vehicle, and
Barbicane became aware of it about 4 a.m.
The change consisted in this, that the bottom of the projectile was
turned towards the surface of the moon, and kept itself perpendicular
with its axis. The attraction or gravitation had caused this
modification. The heaviest part of the bullet inclined towards the
invisible disc exactly as if it had fallen towards it.
Was it falling then? Were the travellers at last about to reach their
desired goal? No. And the observation of one landmark, inexplicable in
itself, demonstrated to Barbicane that his projectile was not nearing
the moon, and that it was following an almost concentric curve.
This was a flash of light which Nicholl signalised all at once on the
limit of the horizon formed by the black disc. This point could not be
mistaken for a star. It was a reddish flame, which grew gradually
larger--an incontestable proof that the projectile was getting nearer
it, and not falling normally upon the surface of the satellite.
"A volcano! It is a volcano in activity!" exclaimed Nicholl--"an
eruption of the interior fires of the moon. That world, then, is not
"Yes, an eruption!" answered Barbicane, who studied the phenomenon
carefully through his night-glass. "What should it be if not a volcano?"
"But then," said Michel Ardan, "air is necessary to feed that
combustion, therefore there is some atmosphere on that part of the
"Perhaps so," answered Barbicane, "but not necessarily. A volcano, by
the decomposition of certain matters, can furnish itself with oxygen,
and so throw up flames into the void. It seems to me, too, that that
deflagration has the intensity and brilliancy of objects the combustion
of which is produced in pure oxygen. We must not be in a hurry to affirm
the existence of a lunar atmosphere."
The burning mountain was situated at the 45th degree of south latitude
on the invisible part of the disc. But to the great disappointment of
Barbicane the curve that the projectile described dragged it away from
the point signalised by the eruption, therefore he could not exactly
determine its nature. Half-an-hour after it had first been seen this
luminous point disappeared on the horizon. Still the authentication of
this phenomenon was a considerable fact in selenographic studies. It
proved that all heat had not yet disappeared from the interior of this
globe, and where heat exists, who may affirm that the vegetable kingdom,
or even the animal kingdom itself, has not until now resisted the
destructive influences? The existence of this volcano in eruption,
indisputably established by earthly _savants_, was favourable to the
theory of the habitability of the moon.
Barbicane became absorbed in reflection. He forgot himself in a mute
reverie, filled with the mysterious destinies of the lunar world. He was
trying to connect the facts observed up till then, when a fresh incident
recalled him suddenly to the reality.
This incident was more than a cosmic phenomenon; it was a threatening
danger, the consequences of which might be disastrous.
Suddenly in the midst of the ether, in the profound darkness, an
enormous mass had appeared. It was like a moon, but a burning moon of
almost unbearable brilliancy, outlined as it was on the total obscurity
of space. This mass, of a circular form, threw such light that it filled
the projectile. The faces of Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan,
bathed in its white waves, looked spectral, livid, _blafard_, like the
appearance produced by the artificial light of alcohol impregnated with
"The devil!" cried Michel Ardan. "How hideous we are! Whatever is that
"It is a bolis," answered Barbicane.
"A bolis, on fire, in the void?"
This globe of fire was indeed a bolis. Barbicane was not mistaken. But
if these cosmic meteors, seen from the earth, present an inferior light
to that of the moon, here, in the dark ether, they shone magnificently.
These wandering bodies carry in themselves the principle of their own
incandescence. The surrounding air is not necessary to the deflagration.
And, indeed, if certain of these bodies pass through our atmosphere at
two or three leagues from the earth, others describe their trajectory at
a distance the atmosphere cannot reach. Some of these meteors are from
one to two miles wide, and move at a speed of forty miles a second,
following an inverse direction from the movement of the earth.
This shooting star suddenly appeared in the darkness at a distance of at
least 100 leagues, and measured, according to Barbicane's estimate, a
diameter of 2,000 metres. It moved with the speed of about thirty
leagues a minute. It cut across the route of the projectile, and would
reach it in a few minutes. As it approached it grew larger in an
If possible, let the situation of the travellers be imagined! It is
impossible to describe it. In spite of their courage, their
_sang-froid_, their carelessness of danger, they were mute, motionless,
with stiffened limbs, a prey to fearful terror. Their projectile, the
course of which they could not alter, was running straight on to this
burning mass, more intense than the open mouth of a furnace. They seemed
to be rushing towards an abyss of fire.
Barbicane seized the hands of his two companions, and all three looked
through their half-closed eyelids at the red-hot asteroid. If they still
thought at all, they must have given themselves up as lost!
Two minutes after the sudden appearance of the bolis, two centuries of
agony, the projectile seemed about to strike against it, when the ball
of fire burst like a bomb, but without making any noise in the void,
where sound, which is only the agitation of the strata of air, could not
Nicholl uttered a cry. His companions and he rushed to the port-lights.
What a spectacle! What pen could describe it, what palette would be rich
enough in colours to reproduce its magnificence?
It was like the opening of a crater, or the spreading of an immense
fire. Thousands of luminous fragments lit up space with their fires.
Every size, colour, and shade were there. There were yellow, red, green,
grey, a crown of multi-coloured fireworks. There only remained of the
enormous and terrible globe pieces carried in all directions, each an
asteroid in its turn, some shining like swords, some surrounded by white
vapour, others leaving behind them a trail of cosmic dust.
These incandescent blocks crossed each other, knocked against each
other, and were scattered into smaller fragments, of which some struck
the projectile. Its left window was even cracked by the violent shock.
It seemed to be floating in a shower of bullets, of which the least
could annihilate it in an instant.
The light which saturated the ether was of incomparable intensity, for
these asteroids dispersed it in every direction. At a certain moment it
was so bright that Michel dragged Barbicane and Nicholl to the window,
"The invisible moon is at last visible!"
And all three, across the illumination, saw for a few seconds that
mysterious disc which the eye of man perceived for the first time.
What did they distinguish across that distance which they could not
estimate? Long bands across the disc, veritable clouds formed in a very
restricted atmospheric medium, from which emerged not only all the
mountains, but every relief of middling importance, amphitheatres,
yawning craters, such as exist on the visible face. Then immense tracts,
no longer arid plains, but veritable seas, oceans which reflected in
their liquid mirror all the dazzling magic of the fires of space.
Lastly, on the surface of the continents, vast dark masses, such as
immense forests would resemble under the rapid illumination of a flash
Was it an illusion, an error of the eyes, an optical deception? Could
they give a scientific affirmation to that observation so superficially
obtained? Dared they pronounce upon the question of its habitability
after so slight a glimpse of the invisible disc?
By degrees the fulgurations of space gradually died out, its accidental
brilliancy lessened, the asteroids fled away by their different
trajectories, and went out in the distance. The ether resumed its
habitual darkness; the stars, for one moment eclipsed, shone in the
firmament, and the disc, of which scarcely a glimpse had been caught,
was lost in the impenetrable night.
THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE.
The projectile had just escaped a terrible danger, a danger quite
unforeseen. Who would have imagined such a meeting of asteroids? These
wandering bodies might prove serious perils to the travellers. They were
to them like so many rocks in the sea of ether, which, less fortunate
than navigators, they could not avoid. But did these adventurers of
space complain? No, as Nature had given them the splendid spectacle of a
cosmic meteor shining by formidable expansion, as this incomparable
display of fireworks, which no Ruggieri could imitate, had lighted for a
few seconds the invisible nimbus of the moon. During that rapid peep,
continents, seas, and forests had appeared to them. Then the atmosphere
did give there its life-giving particles? Questions still not solved,
eternally asked by American curiosity.
It was then 3.30 p.m. The bullet was still describing its curve round
the moon. Had its route again been modified by the meteor? It was to be
feared. The projectile ought, however to describe a curve imperturbably
determined by the laws of mechanics. Barbicane inclined to the opinion
that this curve would be a parabola and not an hyperbola. However, if
the parabola was admitted, the bullet ought soon to come out of the cone
of shadow thrown into the space on the opposite side to the sun. This
cone, in fact, is very narrow, the angular diameter of the moon is so
small compared to the diameter of the orb of day. Until now the
projectile had moved in profound darkness. Whatever its speed had
been--and it could not have been slight--its period of occultation
continued. That fact was evident, but perhaps that would not have been
the case in a rigidly parabolical course. This was a fresh problem which
tormented Barbicane's brain, veritably imprisoned as it was in a web of
the unknown which he could not disentangle.
Neither of the travellers thought of taking a minute's rest. Each
watched for some unexpected incident which should throw a new light on
their uranographic studies. About five o'clock Michel distributed to
them, by way of dinner, some morsels of bread and cold meat, which were
rapidly absorbed, whilst no one thought of leaving the port-light, the
panes of which were becoming incrusted under the condensation of vapour.
About 5.45 p.m., Nicholl, armed with his telescope, signalised upon the
southern border of the moon, and in the direction followed by the
projectile, a few brilliant points outlined against the dark screen of
the sky. They looked like a succession of sharp peaks with profiles in a
tremulous line. They were rather brilliant. The terminal line of the
moon looks the same when she is in one of her octants.
They could not be mistaken. There was no longer any question of a simple
meteor, of which that luminous line had neither the colour nor the
mobility, nor of a volcano in eruption. Barbicane did not hesitate to
declare what it was.
"The sun!" he exclaimed.
"What! the sun!" answered Nicholl and Michel Ardan.
"Yes, my friends, it is the radiant orb itself, lighting up the summit
of the mountains situated on the southern border of the moon. We are
evidently approaching the South Pole!"
"After having passed the North Pole," answered Michel. "Then we have
been all round our satellite."
"Yes, friend Michel."
"Then we have no more hyperbolas, no more parabolas, no more open curves
"No, but a closed curve."
"Which is called--"
"An ellipsis. Instead of being lost in the interplanetary spaces it is
possible that the projectile will describe an elliptical orbit round the
"And that it will become its satellite."
"Moon of the moon," exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"Only I must tell you, my worthy friend, that we are none the less lost
men on that account!"
"No, but in another and much pleasanter way!" answered the careless
Frenchman, with his most amiable smile.
President Barbicane was right. By describing this elliptical orbit the
projectile was going to gravitate eternally round the moon like a
sub-satellite. It was a new star added to the solar world, a microcosm
peopled by three inhabitants, whom want of air would kill before long.
Barbicane, therefore, could not rejoice at the position imposed on the
bullet by the double influence of the centripetal and centrifugal
forces. His companions and he were again going to see the visible face
of the disc. Perhaps their existence would last long enough for them to
perceive for the last time the full earth superbly lighted up by the
rays of the sun! Perhaps they might throw a last adieu to the globe they
were never more to see again! Then their projectile would be nothing but
an extinct mass, dead like those inert asteroids which circulate in the
ether. A single consolation remained to them: it was that of seeing the
darkness and returning to light, it was that of again entering the zones
bathed by solar irradiation!
In the meantime the mountains recognised by Barbicane stood out more and
more from the dark mass. They were Mounts Doerfel and Leibnitz, which
stand on the southern circumpolar region of the moon.
All the mountains of the visible hemisphere have been measured with
perfect exactitude. This perfection will, no doubt, seem astonishing,
and yet the hypsometric methods are rigorous. The altitude of the lunar
mountains may be no less exactly determined than that of the mountains
of the earth.
The method generally employed is that of measuring the shadow thrown by
the mountains, whilst taking into account the altitude of the sun at the
moment of observation. This method also allows the calculating of the
depth of craters and cavities on the moon. Galileo used it, and since
Messrs. Boeer and Moedler have employed it with the greatest success.
Another method, called the tangent radii, may also be used for measuring
lunar reliefs. It is applied at the moment when the mountains form
luminous points on the line of separation between light and darkness
which shine on the dark part of the disc. These luminous points are
produced by the solar rays above those which determine the limit of the
phase. Therefore the measure of the dark interval which the luminous
point and the luminous part of the phase leave between them gives
exactly the height of the point. But it will be seen that this method
can only be applied to the mountains near the line of separation of
darkness and light.
A third method consists in measuring the profile of the lunar mountains
outlined on the background by means of a micrometer; but it is only
applicable to the heights near the border of the orb.
In any case it will be remarked that this measurement of shadows,
intervals, or profiles can only be made when the solar rays strike the
moon obliquely in relation to the observer. When they strike her
directly--in a word, when she is full--all shadow is imperiously
banished from her disc, and observation is no longer possible.
Galileo, after recognising the existence of the lunar mountains, was the
first to employ the method of calculating their heights by the shadows
they throw. He attributed to them, as it has already been shown, an
average of 9,000 yards. Hevelius singularly reduced these figures, which
Riccioli, on the contrary, doubled. All these measures were exaggerated.
Herschel, with his more perfect instruments, approached nearer the
hypsometric truth. But it must be finally sought in the accounts of
Messrs. Boeer and Moedler, the most perfect selenographers in the whole
world, have measured 1,095 lunar mountains. It results from their
calculations that 6 of these mountains rise above 5,800 metres, and 22
above 4,800. The highest summit of the moon measures 7,603 metres; it
is, therefore, inferior to those of the earth, of which some are 1,000
yards higher. But one remark must be made. If the respective volumes of
the two orbs are compared the lunar mountains are relatively higher than
the terrestrial. The lunar ones form 1/70 of the diameter of the moon,
and the terrestrial only form 1/140 of the diameter of the earth. For a
terrestrial mountain to attain the relative proportions of a lunar
mountain, its perpendicular height ought to be 6-1/2 leagues. Now the
highest is not four miles.
Thus, then, to proceed by comparison, the chain of the Himalayas counts
three peaks higher than the lunar ones, Mount Everest, Kunchinjuga, and
Dwalagiri. Mounts Doerfel and Leibnitz, on the moon, are as high as
Jewahir in the same chain. Newton, Casatus, Curtius, Short, Tycho,
Clavius, Blancanus, Endymion, the principal summits of Caucasus and the
Apennines, are higher than Mont Blanc. The mountains equal to Mont Blanc
are Moret, Theophylus, and Catharnia; to Mount Rosa, Piccolomini,
Werner, and Harpalus; to Mount Cervin, Macrobus, Eratosthenes,
Albateque, and Delambre; to the Peak of Teneriffe, Bacon, Cysatus,
Philolaus, and the Alps; to Mount Perdu, in the Pyrenees, Roemer and
Boguslawski; to Etna, Hercules, Atlas, and Furnerius.
Such are the points of comparison that allow the appreciation of the
altitude of lunar mountains. Now the trajectory followed by the
projectile dragged it precisely towards that mountainous region of the
southern hemisphere where rise the finest specimens of lunar orography.
At 6 p.m. the projectile passed the South Pole at less than thirty
miles, a distance equal to that already reached at the North Pole. The
elliptical curve was, therefore, being rigorously described.
At that moment the travellers re-entered the beneficent sunshine. They
saw once more the stars moving slowly from east to west. The radiant orb
was saluted with a triple hurrah. With its light came also its heat,
which soon pierced the middle walls. The windows resumed their
accustomed transparency. Their "layer of ice" melted as if by
enchantment. The gas was immediately extinguished by way of economy. The
air apparatus alone was to consume its habitual quantity.
"Ah!" said Nicholl, "sunshine is good! How impatiently after their long
nights the Selenites must await the reappearance of the orb of day!"
"Yes," answered Michel Ardan, "imbibing, as it were, the brilliant
ether, light and heat, all life is in them."
At that moment the bottom of the projectile moved slightly from the
lunar surface in order to describe a rather long elliptical orbit. From
that point, if the earth had been full, Barbicane and his friends could
have seen it again. But, drowned in the sun's irradiation, it remained
absolutely invisible. Another spectacle attracted their eyes, presented
by the southern region of the moon, brought by the telescopes to within
half-a-mile. They left the port-lights no more, and noted all the
details of the strange continent.
Mounts Doerfel and Leibnitz formed two separate groups stretching nearly
to the South Pole; the former group extends from the Pole to the 84th
parallel on the eastern part of the orb; the second, starting from the
eastern border, stretches from the 65th degree of latitude to the Pole.
On their capriciously-formed ridge appeared dazzling sheets of light
like those signalised by Father Secchi. With more certainty than the
illustrious Roman astronomer, Barbicane was enabled to establish their
"It is snow," cried he.
"Snow?" echoed Nicholl.
"Yes, Nicholl, snow, the surface of which is profoundly frozen. Look how
it reflects the luminous rays. Cooled lava would not give so intense a
reflection. Therefore there is water and air upon the moon, as little as
you like, but the fact can no longer be contested."
No, it could not be, and if ever Barbicane saw the earth again his notes
would testify to this fact, important in selenographic observations.
These Mounts Doerfel and Leibnitz arose in the midst of plains of
moderate extent, bounded by an indefinite succession of amphitheatres
and circular ramparts. These two chains are the only ones which are met
with in the region of amphitheatres. Relatively they are not very
broken, and only throw out here and there some sharp peaks, the highest
of which measures 7,603 metres.
The projectile hung high above all this, and the relief disappeared in
the intense brilliancy of the disc.
Then reappeared to the eyes of the travellers that original aspect of
the lunar landscapes, raw in tone, without gradation of colours, only
white and black, for diffused light was wanting. Still the sight of this
desolate world was very curious on account of its very strangeness. They
were moving above this chaotic region as if carried along by the breath
of a tempest, seeing the summits fly under their feet, looking down the
cavities, climbing the ramparts, sounding the mysterious holes. But
there was no trace of vegetation, no appearance of cities, nothing but
stratifications, lava streams, polished like immense mirrors, which
reflect the solar rays with unbearable brilliancy. There was no
appearance of a living world, everything of a dead one, where the
avalanches rolling from the summit of the mountains rushed noiselessly.
They had plenty of movement, but noise was wanting still.
Barbicane established the fact, by reiterated observation, that the
reliefs on the borders of the disc, although they had been acted upon
by different forces to those of the central region, presented a uniform
conformation. There was the same circular aggregation, the same
accidents of ground. Still it might be supposed that their arrangements
were not completely analogous. In the centre the still malleable crust
of the moon suffered the double attraction of the moon and the earth
acting in inverse ways according to a radius prolonged from one to the
other. On the borders of the disc, on the contrary, the lunar attraction
has been, thus to say, perpendicular with the terrestrial attraction. It
seems, therefore, that the reliefs on the soil produced under these
conditions ought to have taken a different form. Yet they had not,
therefore the moon had found in herself alone the principle of her
formation and constitution. She owed nothing to foreign influences,
which justified the remarkable proposition of Arago's, "No action
exterior to the moon has contributed to the production of her relief."
However that may be in its actual condition, this world was the image of
death without it being possible to say that life had ever animated it.
Michel Ardan, however, thought he recognised a heap of ruins, to which
he drew Barbicane's attention. It was situated in about the 80th
parallel and 30 deg. longitude. This heap of stones, pretty regularly made,
was in the shape of a vast fortress, overlooking one of those long
furrows which served as river-beds in ante-historical times. Not far off
rose to a height of 5,646 metres the circular mountain called Short,
equal to the Asiatic Caucasus. Michel Ardan, with his habitual ardour,
maintained "the evidences" of his fortress. Below he perceived the
dismantled ramparts of a town; here the arch of a portico, still intact;
there two or three columns lying on their side; farther on a succession
of archpieces, which must have supported the conduct of an aqueduct; in
another part the sunken pillars of a gigantic bridge run into the
thickest part of the furrow. He distinguished all that, but with so much
imagination in his eyes, through a telescope so fanciful, that his
observation cannot be relied upon. And yet who would affirm, who would
dare to say, that the amiable fellow had not really seen what his two
companions would not see?
The moments were too precious to be sacrificed to an idle discussion.
The Selenite city, whether real or pretended, had disappeared in the
distance. The projectile began to get farther away from the lunar disc,
and the details of the ground began to be lost in a confused jumble. The
reliefs, amphitheatres, craters, and plains alone remained, and still
showed their boundary-lines distinctly.
At that moment there stretched to the left one of the finest
amphitheatres in lunar orography. It was Newton, which Barbicane easily
recognised by referring to the _Mappa Selenographica_.
Newton is situated in exactly 77 deg. south lat. and 16 deg. east long. It forms
a circular crater, the ramparts of which, 7,264 metres high, seemed to
Barbicane made his companions notice that the height of that mountain
above the surrounding plain was far from being equal to the depth of its
crater. This enormous hole was beyond all measurement, and made a gloomy
abyss, the bottom of which the sun's rays could never reach. There,
according to Humboldt, utter darkness reigns, which the light of the sun
and the earth could not break. The mythologists would have made it with
justice hell's mouth.
"Newton," said Barbicane, "is the most perfect type of the circular
mountains, of which the earth possesses no specimen. They prove that the
formation of the moon by cooling was due to violent causes, for whilst
under the influence of interior fire the reliefs were thrown up to
considerable heights, the bottom dropped in, and became lower than the
"I do not say no," answered Michel Ardan.
A few minutes after having passed Newton the projectile stood directly
over the circular mountain of Moret. It also passed rather high above
the summits of Blancanus, and about 7.30 p.m. it reached the
amphitheatre of Clavius.
This circle, one of the most remarkable on the disc, is situated in
south lat. 58 deg. and east long. 15 deg.. Its height is estimated at 7,091
metres. The travellers at a distance of 200 miles, reduced to two by the
telescopes, could admire the arrangement of this vast crater.
"The terrestrial volcanoes," said Barbicane, "are only molehills
compared to the volcanoes of the moon. Measuring the ancient craters
formed by the first eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna, they are found to be
scarcely 6,000 metres wide. In France the circle of the Cantal measures
five miles; at Ceylon the circle of the island is forty miles, and is
considered the largest on the globe. What are these diameters compared
to that of Clavius, which we are over in this moment?"
"What is its width?" asked Nicholl.
"About seventy miles," answered Barbicane. "This amphitheatre is
certainly the largest on the moon, but many are fifty miles wide!"
"Ah, my friends," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "can you imagine what this
peaceful orb of night was once like? when these craters vomited torrents
of lava and stones, with clouds of smoke and sheets of flame? What a
prodigious spectacle formerly, and now what a falling off! This moon is
now only the meagre case of fireworks, of which the rockets, serpents,
suns, and wheels, after going off magnificently, only leave torn pieces
of cardboard. Who can tell the cause, reason, or justification of such
Barbicane did not listen to Michel Ardan. He was contemplating those
ramparts of Clavius, formed of wide mountains several leagues thick. At
the bottom of its immense cavity lay hundreds of small extinct craters,
making the soil like a sieve, and overlooked by a peak more than 15,000
The plain around had a desolate aspect. Nothing so arid as these
reliefs, nothing so sad as these ruins of mountains, if so they may be
called, as those heaps of peaks and mountains encumbering the ground!
The satellite seemed to have been blown up in this place.
The projectile still went on, and the chaos was still the same. Circles,
craters, and mountains succeeded each other incessantly. No more plains
or seas--an interminable Switzerland or Norway. Lastly, in the centre of
the creviced region at its culminating point, the most splendid mountain
of the lunar disc, the dazzling Tycho, to which posterity still gives
the name of the illustrious Danish astronomer.
Whilst observing the full moon in a cloudless sky, there is no one who
has not remarked this brilliant point on the southern hemisphere. Michel
Ardan, to qualify it, employed all the metaphors his imagination could
furnish him with. To him Tycho was an ardent focus of light, a centre of
irradiation, a crater vomiting flames! It was the axle of a fiery wheel,
a sea-star encircling the disc with its silver tentacles, an immense eye
darting fire, a nimbo made for Pluto's head! It was a star hurled by the
hand of the Creator, and fallen upon the lunar surface!
Tycho forms such a luminous concentration that the inhabitants of the
earth can see it without a telescope, although they are at a distance of
100,000 leagues. It will, therefore, be readily imagined what its
intensity must have been in the eyes of observers placed at fifty
Across this pure ether its brilliancy was so unbearable that Barbicane
and his friends were obliged to blacken the object-glasses of their
telescopes with gas-smoke in order to support it. Then, mute, hardly
emitting a few admirative interjections, they looked and contemplated.
All their sentiments, all their impressions were concentrated in their
eyes, as life, under violent emotion, is concentrated in the heart.
Tycho belongs to the system of radiating mountains, like Aristarchus and
Copernicus. But it testified the most completely of all to the terrible
volcanic action to which the formation of the moon is due.
Tycho is situated in south lat. 43 deg. and east long. 12 deg.. Its centre is
occupied by a crater more than forty miles wide. It affects a slightly
elliptical form, and is inclosed by circular ramparts, which on the east
and west overlook the exterior plain from a height of 5,000 metres. It
is an aggregation of Mont Blancs, placed round a common centre, and
crowned with shining rays.
Photography itself could never represent what this incomparable
mountain, with all its projections converging to it and its interior
excrescences, is really like. In fact, it is during the full moon that
Tycho is seen in all its splendour. Then all shadows disappear, the
foreshortenings of perspective disappear, and all proofs come out
white--an unfortunate circumstance, for this strange region would have
been curious to reproduce with photographic exactitude. It is only an
agglomeration of holes, craters, circles, a vertiginous network of
crests. It will be understood, therefore, that the bubblings of this
central eruption have kept their first forms. Crystallised by cooling,
they have stereotyped the aspect which the moon formerly presented under
the influence of Plutonic forces.
The distance which separated the travellers from the circular summits of
Tycho was not so great that the travellers could not survey its
principal details. Even upon the embankment which forms the ramparts of
Tycho, the mountains hanging to the interior and exterior slopes rose in
stories like gigantic terraces. They appeared to be higher by 300 or 400
feet on the west than on the east. No system of terrestrial
castrametation could equal these natural fortifications. A town built at
the bottom of this circular cavity would have been utterly inaccessible.
Inaccessible and marvellously extended over this ground of picturesque
relief! Nature had not left the bottom of this crater flat and empty. It
possessed a special orography, a mountain system which made it a world
apart. The travellers clearly distinguished the cones, central hills,
remarkable movements of the ground, naturally disposed for the reception
of masterpieces of Selenite architecture. There was the place for a
temple, here for a forum, there the foundations of a palace, there the
plateau of a citadel, the whole overlooked by a central mountain 1,500
feet high--a vast circuit which would have held ancient Rome ten times
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, made enthusiastic by the sight, "what
grand towns could be built in this circle of mountains! A tranquil city,
a peaceful refuge, away from all human cares! How all misanthropes could
live there, all haters of humanity, all those disgusted with social
"All! It would be too small for them!" replied Barbicane simply.
In the meantime the projectile had passed the neighbourhood of Tycho.
Barbicane and his two friends then observed, with the most scrupulous
attention, those brilliant radii which the celebrated mountain disperses
so curiously on every horizon.
What was this radiating aureole? What geological phenomenon had caused
those ardent beams? This question justly occupied Barbicane. Under his
eyes, in every direction, ran luminous furrows, with raised banks and
concave middle, some ten miles, others more than twenty miles wide.
These shining trails ran in certain places at least 300 leagues from
Tycho, and seemed to cover, especially towards the east, north-east, and
north, half the southern hemisphere. One of these furrows stretched as
far as the amphitheatre of Neander, situated on the 40th meridian.
Another went rounding off through the Sea of Nectar and broke against
the chain of the Pyrenees after a run of 400 leagues; others towards the
west covered with a luminous network the Sea of Clouds and the Sea of
What was the origin of these shining rays running equally over plains
and reliefs, however high? They all started from a common centre, the
crater of Tycho. They emanated from it.
Herschel attributed their brilliant aspect to ancient streams of lava
congealed by the cold, an opinion which has not been generally received.
Other astronomers have seen in these inexplicable rays a kind of
_moraines_, ranges of erratic blocks thrown out at the epoch of the
formation of Tycho.
"And why should it not be so?" asked Nicholl of Barbicane, who rejected
these different opinions at the same time that he related them.
"Because the regularity of these luminous lines, and the violence
necessary to send them to such a distance, are inexplicable.
"_Par bleu_!" replied Michel Ardan. "I can easily explain to myself the
origin of these rays."
"Indeed," said Barbicane.
"Yes," resumed Michel. "Why should they not be the cracks caused by the
shock of a bullet or a stone upon a pane of glass?"
"Good," replied Barbicane, smiling; "and what hand would be powerful
enough to hurl the stone that would produce such a shock?"
"A hand is not necessary," answered Michel, who would not give in; "and
as to the stone, let us say it is a comet."
"Ah! comets?" exclaimed Barbicane; "those much-abused comets! My worthy
Michel, your explanation is not bad, but your comet is not wanted. The
shock might have come from the interior of the planet. A violent
contraction of the lunar crust whilst cooling was enough to make that
"Contraction let it be--something like a lunar colic," answered Michel
"Besides," added Barbicane, "that is also the opinion of an English
_savant_, Nasmyth, and it seems to me to explain the radiation of these
"That Nasmyth was no fool!" answered Michel.
The travellers, who could never weary of such a spectacle, long admired
the splendours of Tycho. Their projectile, bathed in that double
irradiation of the sun and moon, must have appeared like a globe of
fire. They had, therefore, suddenly passed from considerable cold to
intense heat. Nature was thus preparing them to become Selenites.
To become Selenites! That idea again brought up the question of the
habitability of the moon. After what they had seen, could the travellers
solve it? Could they conclude for or against? Michel Ardan asked his two
friends to give utterance to their opinion, and asked them outright if
they thought that humanity and animality were represented in the lunar
"I think we cannot answer," said Barbicane, "but in my opinion the
question ought not to be stated in that form. I ask to be allowed to
state it differently."
"State it as you like," answered Michel.
"This is it," resumed Barbicane. "The problem is double, and requires a
double solution. Is the moon habitable? Has it been inhabited?"
"Right," said Nicholl. "Let us first see if the moon is habitable."
"To tell the truth, I know nothing about it," replied Michel.
"And I answer in the negative," said Barbicane. "In her actual state,
with her certainly very slight atmosphere, her seas mostly dried up, her
insufficient water, her restricted vegetation, her abrupt alternations
of heat and cold, her nights and days 354 hours long, the moon does not
appear habitable to me, nor propitious to the development of the animal
kingdom, nor sufficient for the needs of existence such as we understand
"Agreed," answered Nicholl; "but is not the moon habitable for beings
differently organised to us?"
"That question is more difficult to answer," replied Barbicane. "I will
try to do it, however, but I ask Nicholl if movement seems to him the
necessary result of existence, under no matter what organisation?"
"Without the slightest doubt," answered Nicholl.
"Well, then, my worthy companion, my answer will be that we have seen
the lunar continent at a distance of 500 yards, and that nothing
appeared to be moving on the surface of the moon. The presence of no
matter what form of humanity would be betrayed by appropriations,
different constructions, or even ruins. What did we see? Everywhere the
geological work of Nature, never the work of man. If, therefore,
representatives of the animal kingdom exist upon the moon, they have
taken refuge in those bottomless cavities which the eye cannot reach.
And I cannot admit that either, for they would have left traces of their
passage upon the plains which the atmosphere, however slight, covers.
Now these traces are nowhere visible. Therefore the only hypothesis that
remains is one of living beings without movement or life."
"You might just as well say living creatures who are not alive."
"Precisely," answered Barbicane, "which for us has no meaning."
"Then now we may formulate our opinion," said Michel.
"Yes," answered Nicholl.
"Very well," resumed Michel Ardan; "the Scientific Commission, meeting
in the projectile of the Gun Club, after having supported its arguments
upon fresh facts lately observed, decides unanimously upon the question
of the habitability of the moon--'No, the moon is not inhabited.'"
This decision was taken down by Barbicane in his notebook, where he had
already written the _proces-verbal_ of the sitting of December 6th.
"Now," said Nicholl, "let us attack the second question, depending on
the first. I therefore ask the honourable Commission if the moon is not
habitable, has it been inhabited?"
"Answer, Citizen Barbicane," said Michel Ardan.
"My friends," answered Barbicane, "I did not undertake this journey to
form an opinion upon the ancient habitability of our satellite. I may
add that my personal observations only confirm me in this opinion. I
believe, I even affirm, that the moon has been inhabited by a human race
organised like ours, that it has produced animals anatomically formed
like terrestrial animals; but I add that these races, human or animal,
have had their day, and are for ever extinct."
"Then," asked Michel, "the moon is an older world than the earth?"
"No," answered Barbicane with conviction, "but a world that has grown
old more quickly, whose formation and deformation have been more rapid.
Relatively the organising forces of matter have been much more violent
in the interior of the moon than in the interior of the celestial globe.
The actual state of this disc, broken up, tormented, and swollen, proves
this abundantly. In their origin the moon and the earth were only gases.