Special Meeting: 30th May, 1910.
Mr. A. Hamilton, President, in the chair.
Paper.— “The Astronomical Importance of the Theory of the Third Body,” by Professor A. W. Bickerton.
The author delivered a lecture on the astronomical importance of the theory of the third body before a largely attended meeting of the Society, and lucidly explained the formation of a third body from the partial collision of two celestial bodies. He said astronomers were now all agreed in recognizing the existence of “dead suns,” and grazing-collisions among the stars, but were not in agreement as to the dynamic and physical changes produced by such collisions. The common assumption was that the two bodies concerned were enormously increased in temperature, by collision; he held, on the contrary, that they were heated only to a comparatively slight extent, but that the third body, struck off in the collision, was heated to an enormous temperature. This third body had many times the energy of any other equal mass, and was capable of producing very extraordinary phenomena. Astronomers had missed the idea of the third body, as no reference could be found to it in any standard astronomical work, so that the idea had not presented itself to them sufficiently for them to speak about it. The lecturer entered minutely into the vast energies involved, and defined a new term necessary for any easy understanding of the forces involved— “kinetol,” this being proportional to the reciprocal of the atomic weight: thus the kinetols of hydrogen and oxygen are as 16:1. The lecturer had taken up the problems more than thirty years ago, not as an astronomer or astrophysicist, but as an engineer with a knowledge of thermodynamics.* He had stated his problems and worked out their solutions, placing his results before astronomers for examination in the light of actual research. He found that the great works on astronomy contained many facts that could only, in his opinion, be explained by his theory; this was notably the case in spectrum analysis.
Mr. A. C. Gifford moved a vote of thanks to Professor Bickerton, and instanced various phenomena which were still a puzzle to astronomers and which this theory seemed to explain.
Dr. Kennedy, F.R.A.S., who seconded the motion, was unable to follow the theory in all points, yet recognized that Professor Bickerton had devised an admirable working theory, worthy of being put to the test by astronomers and investigators-into astrophysics. The lecturer had been too modest to mention one important fact—his anticipations had been proved in the recorded spectrum of Nova Aurigae, which agreed with predictions made thirteen years previously. The theory deserved much more attention from leading astronomers than it had-received in the past.
The President said he would be very pleased if the Society could help to bring the theory prominently before the astronomical world, and a recommendation might be made to the New Zealand Institute to help the matter forward.
The vote of thanks was carried amid hearty applause.
[Footnote] * See Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1878, 1879, 1880.
Astronomical Society.—Advantage was taken by the President of the large attendance of those interested in astronomy to introduce the question of the formation of an Astronomical Society or an Astronomical Section of the Society.
Dr. C. Monro Hector thought it matter for regret that the Carter bequest for a telescope had lain idle so long. He had no definite proposal to make, but thought the time opportune to bring the matter forward and try to interest the public in the subject.
Mr. C. P. Powles thought the time for action had come, and moved, That steps be taken to form a branch of the British Astronomical Association in connection with the Wellington Philosophical Society.
The motion, after some discussion, was withdrawn, it being uncertain whether a branch of the Association could be affiliated with the Society, and finally a committee was appointed to consider the whole matter and report to a later meeting, the committee to consist of Mr. A. Hamilton, Mr. C. E. Adams, F.R.A.S., Dr. Kennedy, F.R.A.S., Dr. Hector, Mr. E. D. Bell, Mr. G. V. Hudson, Mr. A. C. Gifford, Professor Easterfield, and Mr. C. P. Powles (convener).