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rendered probable from our knowing as yet, with certainty, the return of only one comet among the great number that have been observed.

Since then, from what has been said, it is proved that the influence of the sun upon our present comet has been beyond all comparison greater than it was upon that of 1807; and since we cannot suppose our sun to have altered so much in its radiance as to be the cause of the difference; have we not reason to suppose that the matter of the present comet has either very seldom, or never before passed through some perihelion by which it could have been so much condensed as the preceding comet? Hence may we not surmise that the comet of 1807 was more advanced in maturity than the present one; that is to say, that it was comparatively a much older comet.

Should the idea of age be rejected, we may indeed have recourse to another supposition, namely, that the present comet, since the time of some former perihelion passage, may have acquired an additional quantity (if I may so call it) of unperihelioned matter, by moving in a parabolical direction through the immensity of space, and passing through extensive strata of nebulosity; and that a small comet, having already some solidity in its nucleus, should carry off a portion of such matter, cannot be improbable. Nay, from the complete resemblance of many comets to a number of nebulæ I have seen, I think it not unlikely that the matter they contain is originally nebulous. It may therefore possibly happen that some of the nebulæ, in which this matter is already in a high state of condensation, may be drawn towards the nearest celestial body of the nature of our sun; and after their first perihelion pas


sage round it proceed, in a parabolic direction, towards some other similar body; and passing successively from one to another, may come into the regions of our sun, where at last we perceive them transformed into comets.

The brilliant appearance of our small comet may therefore be ascribed either to its having but lately emerged from a nebulous condition, or to having carried off some of the nebulous matter, situated in the far extended branch of its parabolic motion. The first of these cases will lead us to conceive how planetary bodies may begin to have an existence; and the second, how they may increase and, as it were, grow up to maturity. For if the accession of fresh nebulous matter can be admitted to happen once, what hinders us from believing a repetition of it probable? and in the case of parabolic motions, the passage of a comet through immense regions of such matter is unavoidable.

Slough, near Windsor,
Dec. 16, 1811.


VI. On a gaseous Compound of carbonic Oxide and Chlorine. By John Davy, Esq. Communicated by Sir Humphry Davy, Knt. LL. D. Sec. R. S.

Read February 6, 1812.

SINCE the influence of electricity and solar light, as chemical agents, are analogous in many respects, and as the former produces no change in a mixture of carbonic oxide and chlorine, it was natural to infer the same respecting the latter. M. M. GAY LUSSAC and THENARD assert that this is the case; they say that they have exposed a mixture of carbonic oxide and chlorine, under all circumstances, to light, without observing any alteration to take place:* Mr. MURRAY has made a similar statement.†

Having been led to repeat this experiment, from some objections made by the last mentioned gentleman to the theory of my brother, Sir HUMPHRY DAVY, concerning chlorine, I was surprised at witnessing a different result.

The mixture exposed, consisted of about equal volumes of chlorine and carbonic oxide; the gasses had been previously dried over mercury by the action of fused muriate of lime, and the exhausted glass globe into which they were introduced from a receiver with suitable stopcocks, was carefully dried. After exposure for about a quarter of an hour to bright

• Recherches Physico-Chimiques, Tom. II. p. 150.

+ NICHOLSON's Journal, Vol. XXX. p. 227.

sunshine, the colour of the chlorine had entirely disappeared; the stopcock belonging to the globe, being turned in mercury recently boiled, a considerable absorption took place, just equal • to one-half the volume of the mixture, and the residual gas possessed properties perfectly distinct from those belonging either to carbonic oxide or chlorine.

Thrown into the atmosphere, it did not fume. Its odour was different from that of chlorine, something like that which one might imagine would result from the smell of chlorine combined with that of ammonia, yet more intolerable and suffocating than chlorine itself, and affecting the eyes in a peculiar manner, producing a rapid flow of tears and occasioning painful sensations.

Its chemical properties were not less decidedly marked, than its physical ones.

Thrown into a tube full of mercury containing a slip of dry litmus paper, it immediately rendered the paper red.

Mixed with ammoniacal gas, a rapid condensation took place, a white salt was formed, and much heat was produced,

The compound of this gas and ammonia was a perfect neutral salt, neither changing the colour of turmeric or litmus; it had no perceptible odour, but a pungent saline taste; it was deliquescent, and of course very soluble in water; it was decomposed by the sulphuric, nitric, and phosphoric acids, and also by liquid muriatic acid; but it sublimed unaltered in the muriatic, carbonic, and sulphureous acid gasses, and dissolved without effervescing in acetic acid. The products of its decomposition collected over mercury were found to be the carbonic and muriatic acid gasses; and in the experiment with concentrated sulphuric acid when accurate results could be



obtained, these two gasses were in such proportions, that the volume of the latter was double that of the former.

I have ascertained by repeated trials, both synthetical and analytical, that the gas condenses four times its volume of the volatile alkali, and I have not been able to combine it with a smaller proportion.

Tin fused in the gas in a bent glass tube over mercury, by means of a spirit lamp, rapidly decomposed it; the liquor of Libavius was formed; and when the vessel had cooled, there was not the least change of the volume of the gas perceptible; but the gas had entirely lost its offensive odour, and was merely carbonic oxide; for like carbonic oxide it burnt with a blue flame, afforded carbonic acid by its combustion, and was not absorbable by water.

The effects of zinc, antimony, and arsenic heated in the gas, were similar to those of tin; compounds of these metals and chlorine were formed, and carbonic oxide in each experiment was liberated equal in volume to the gas decomposed. In each instance the action of the metal was quick; the decomposition being completed in less than ten minutes; but though the action was rapid, it was likewise tranquil, no explosion ever took place, and none of the metals became ignited or inflamed.

The action even of potassium heated in the gas was not violent. But from the great absorption of gas, and from the precipitation of carbon indicated by the blackness produced, not only the new gas, but likewise the carbonic oxide, appeared to be decomposed.

The white oxide of zinc heated in the gas quickly decomposed it, just as readily indeed as the metal itself; there was

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