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Chapter XXVIII: A New Star
That very night, the startling news so impatiently awaited,
burst like a thunderbolt over the United States of the Union, and
thence, darting across the ocean, ran through all the telegraphic
wires of the globe. The projectile had been detected, thanks to the
gigantic reflector of Long’s Peak! Here is the note received
by the director of the Observatory of Cambridge. It contains the
scientific conclusion regarding this great experiment of the Gun
LONG’S PEAK, December 12.
To the Officers of the Observatory of Cambridge.
The projectile discharged by the Columbiad at Stones Hill has
been detected by Messrs. Belfast and J. T. Maston, 12th of
December, at 8:47 P.M., the moon having entered her last
This projectile has not arrived at its destination. It has
passed by the side; but sufficiently near to be retained by the
The rectilinear movement has thus become changed into a circular
motion of extreme velocity, and it is now pursuing an elliptical
orbit round the moon, of which it has become a true satellite.
The elements of this new star we have as yet been unable to
determine; we do not yet know the velocity of its passage. The
distance which separates it from the surface of the moon may be
estimated at about 2,833 miles.
However, two hypotheses come here into our consideration.
1. Either the attraction of the moon will end by drawing them
into itself, and the travelers will attain their destination;
2. The projectile, following an immutable law, will continue to
gravitate round the moon till the end of time.
At some future time, our observations will be able to determine
this point, but till then the experiment of the Gun Club can have
no other result than to have provided our solar system with a new
To how many questions did this unexpected denouement give rise?
What mysterious results was the future reserving for the
investigation of science? At all events, the names of Nicholl,
Barbicane, and Michel Ardan were certain to be immortalized in the
annals of astronomy!
When the dispatch from Long’s Peak had once become known,
there was but one universal feeling of surprise and alarm. Was it
possible to go to the aid of these bold travelers? No! for they had
placed themselves beyond the pale of humanity, by crossing the
limits imposed by the Creator on his earthly creatures. They had
air enough for two months; they had victuals enough for
twelve;— but after that? There was only one man who would not
admit that the situation was desperate— he alone had
confidence; and that was their devoted friend J. T. Maston.
Besides, he never let them get out of sight. His home was
henceforth the post at Long’s Peak; his horizon, the mirror
of that immense reflector. As soon as the moon rose above the
horizon, he immediately caught her in the field of the telescope;
he never let her go for an instant out of his sight, and followed
her assiduously in her course through the stellar spaces. He
watched with untiring patience the passage of the projectile across
her silvery disc, and really the worthy man remained in perpetual
communication with his three friends, whom he did not despair of
seeing again some day.
“Those three men,” said he, “have carried into
space all the resources of art, science, and industry. With that,
one can do anything; and you will see that, some day, they will
come out all right.”
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