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comet is also much supported by the different appearance of the two comets in the observation of the 2d of January. In order to judge of them properly, we must consider their situation with regard to the sun and the earth; the first comet was 192 millions of miles from the sun; the second only 164: the first was at the same time 262 millions from the earth: the second only 83; but notwithstanding the great disadvantage of being 28 millions of miles farther from the sun, and about 179 millions farther from the earth, the first comet had the luminous appearance of a brilliant head accompanied by a tail 45 millions of miles in length; whereas the second comet, so advantageously situated, had only a very faint chevelure about its large but faint nucleus, with a still fainter tail, whose length has been shown not much to exceed half a million.
If then the effect of the action of the sun on the comets at the time of their perihelion passage is more or less conspicueus, according to the quantity of unperihelioned nebulous matter they contain, we may by observation of cometic phenomena arrange these celestial bodies into a certain order of consolidation, from which, in the end, a considerable insight into their nature and destination may be obtained. The three last observed comets, for instance, will give us already the following results.
The comet of which this paper contains observations, is of such a construction that it was but little more affected by a perihelion passage than a planet would have been. This may be ascribed to its very advanced state of consolidation, and to its having but a small share of phosphoric or nebulous matter in its construction.
That of the year 1807 was more affected, and although
considerably condensed, showed clearly that it conveyed a great quantity of nebulosity to the perihelion passage.
The comet of last year contained with little solidity a most abundant portion of nebulous matter, on which, in its approach to the perihelion, the action of the sun produced those beautiful phenomena, which have so favourably afforded an opportunity for critical observations.
XIII. Additional Experiments on the Muriatic and Oxymuriatic Acids. By William Henry, M. D. F. R. S. V. P. of the Lit. and Phil. Society, and Physician to the Infirmary, at Manchester.
Read March 19, 1812.
THE experiments, which form the subject of the following pages, are intended as supplementary to a more extensive series, which the Royal Society did me the honour to insert in their Transactions for the year 1800.* Of the general accuracy of those experiments, I have since had no reason to doubt; and their results, indeed, are coincident with those of subsequent writers of the highest authority in chemistry. My attention has been again drawn to the subject by the important controversy which has lately been carried on between Mr. MURRAY and Mr. JOHN DAVY, respecting the nature of muriatic and oxymuriatic acids;† and I have been induced, by some hints which the discussion has suggested, not only to repeat the principal experiments described in my memoir, but to institute others, with the advantage of a more perfect apparatus than I then possessed, and of greater experience in the management of these delicate processes.
This repetition of my former labours has discovered to me an instance, in which I have failed in drawing the proper conclusion from facts. In two comparative experiments on the electrization of equal quantities of muriatic acid gas, the one
• Page 188.
+ NICHOLSON's Journal, xxviii. and xxix.
of which was dried by muriate of lime, and the other was in its natural state, I found a difference of not more than one per cent. in the hydrogen evolved, relatively to the original bulk of the gas.* Yet, notwithstanding these results, I have expressed myself inclined to believe that some water is abstracted by that deliquescent salt; and this belief was confirmed, several years afterwards, by the event of an experiment in which muriatic acid gas, dried by muriate of lime, gave only its bulk of hydrogen,† a proportion much below the usual average. The question, however, was too interesting to be left in any degree of uncertainty; and I have, therefore, made several fresh experiments with the view to its decision. In the course of these I have found, that though differences in the results are produced by causes apparently trivial, some of which I shall afterwards point out, yet that under equal circumstances, precisely the same relative proportion of hydrogene gas is obtained from muriatic acid gas, whether exposed or not to muriate of lime; and that its greatest amount does not exceed or the original volume of the acid 14 gas. In the paper last quoted, ‡ I have also described an experiment, in which sensible heat was evolved by bringing muriate of lime into contact with muriatic acid gas; a fact which, if established, would go far to prove the existence of water in that gas. But on repeating the experiment with muriate of lime recently cooled from fusion, and over mercury carefully deprived of all moisture by boiling, I was not able to discover any increase of temperature, though a very sensible air thermometer was inclosed in the vessel containing the gas. The evolution of heat takes place, only when the muriate of lime • Page 191. + Phil. Trans. 1809, page 433. ↑ Page 433 note.
has attracted moisture, either from the atmosphere or the mercury, and is then owing to a condensation of a part of the gas.
Essentially, the changes produced by electrifying muriatic acid over mercury are those which I have stated; viz. a contraction of the volume of the gas, the formation of muriate of mercury (calomel), and the evolution of hydrogen. Recent experiments, also, have confirmed the accuracy of the observation,* that when a certain effect has been produced by electricity, nothing is gained by continuing the process; for neither is more hydrogen evolved, nor can the contraction of bulk be carried any farther.
I have lately applied, to experiments on muriatic acid, an apparatus which I used advantageously for the analysis of ammonia. It consists of a spherical glass vessel, into which are hermetically sealed two small tubes containing platina wires, the points of which approach within the striking distance. To the globular part is attached a neck, which may be closed, as occasion requires, either by a glass stopper or by a metal cap and stop-cock. Into a vessel of this kind, I introduced 4 cubic inches of muriatic acid gas, and passed through it gooo discharges from a Leyden jar; at the close of the process, no traces of moisture could be perceived on the inner surface of the vessel, nor could I discover, on opening the stopper, that any change of bulk had taken place. After absorbing the unchanged muriatic acid gas by a small quan tity of water, a volume of gas remained, in which there were present 100 measures (each equal to one grain of mercury) of oxymuriatic acid gas, and 140 measures of hydrogen. Two
• Phil. Trans. 1800. p. 192.
+ Ibid. 1809.