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Chapter XVI. The Sourthern Hemisphere
The projectile had just escaped a terrible danger, and a very
unforseen one. Who would have thought of such an encounter with
meteors? These erring bodies might create serious perils for the
travelers. They were to them so many sandbanks upon that sea of
ether which, less fortunate than sailors, they could not escape.
But did these adventurers complain of space? No, not since nature
had given them the splendid sight of a cosmical meteor bursting
from expansion, since this inimitable firework, which no Ruggieri
could imitate, had lit up for some seconds the invisible glory of
the moon. In that flash, continents, seas, and forests had become
visible to them. Did an atmosphere, then, bring to this unknown
face its life-giving atoms? Questions still insoluble, and forever
closed against human curiousity!
It was then half-past three in the afternoon. The projectile was
following its curvilinear direction round the moon. Had its course
again been altered by the meteor? It was to be feared so. But the
projectile must describe a curve unalterably determined by the laws
of mechanical reasoning. Barbicane was inclined to believe that
this curve would be rather a parabola than a hyperbola. But
admitting the parabola, the projectile must quickly have passed
through the cone of shadow projected into space opposite the sun.
This cone, indeed, is very narrow, the angular diameter of the moon
being so little when compared with the diameter of the orb of day;
and up to this time the projectile had been floating in this deep
shadow. Whatever had been its speed (and it could not have been
insignificant), its period of occultation continued. That was
evident, but perhaps that would not have been the case in a
supposedly rigidly parabolical trajectory— a new problem
which tormented Barbicane’s brain, imprisoned as he was in a
circle of unknowns which he could not unravel.
Neither of the travelers thought of taking an instant’s
repose. Each one watched for an unexpected fact, which might throw
some new light on their uranographic studies. About five
o’clock, Michel Ardan distributed, under the name of dinner,
some pieces of bread and cold meat, which were quickly swallowed
without either of them abandoning their scuttle, the glass of which
was incessantly encrusted by the condensation of vapor.
About forty-five minutes past five in the evening, Nicholl,
armed with his glass, sighted toward the southern border of the
moon, and in the direction followed by the projectile, some bright
points cut upon the dark shield of the sky. They looked like a
succession of sharp points lengthened into a tremulous line. They
were very bright. Such appeared the terminal line of the moon when
in one of her octants.
They could not be mistaken. It was no longer a simple meteor.
This luminous ridge had neither color nor motion. Nor was it a
volcano in eruption. And Barbicane did not hesitate to pronounce
“The sun!” he exclaimed.
“What! the sun?” answered Nicholl and Michel
“Yes, my friends, it is the radiant orb itself lighting up
the summit of the mountains situated on the southern borders of the
moon. We are evidently nearing the south pole.”
“After having passed the north pole,” replied
Michel. “We have made the circuit of our satellite,
“Yes, my good Michel.”
“Then, no more hyperbolas, no more parabolas, no more open
curves to fear?”
“No, but a closed curve.”
“Which is called——”
“An ellipse. Instead of losing itself in interplanetary
space, it is probable that the projectile will describe an
elliptical orbit around the moon.”
“And that it will become her satellite.”
“Moon of the moon!” cried Michel Ardan.
“Only, I would have you observe, my worthy friend,”
replied Barbicane, “that we are none the less lost for
“Yes, in another manner, and much more pleasantly,”
answered the careless Frenchman with his most amiable
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