Add to bookbag
Title: Nebula
Original Title: Nébuleux
Volume and Page: Vol. 11 (1765), pp. 67–68
Author: Johann Heinrich Samuel Formey (biography)
Translator: Amanda Oberski [University of Michigan, aoberski@umich.edu]
Subject terms:
Astronomy
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Rights/Permissions:

This text is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Please see http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/did/terms.html for information on reproduction.

URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.664
Citation (MLA): Formey, Johann Heinrich Samuel. "Nebula." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Amanda Oberski. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2011. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.664>. Trans. of "Nébuleux," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 11. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Formey, Johann Heinrich Samuel. "Nebula." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Amanda Oberski. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2011. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0002.664 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Nébuleux," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 11:67–68 (Paris, 1765).

Nebula, a term applied in astronomy at several fixed stars of pale and dim light; they are fainter than those of the sixth magnitude, and by consequence difficult to distinguish with the naked eye; at most, we see them as small clouds or dim spots.

With a small telescope the nebulae can be seen easily; they seem to be made up of a matter similar to the Milky Way or galaxy. See Star and Galaxy.

In the nebula called Praesepe, which is in the chest of Cancer, one can count as many as thirty-six small stars, which there are three that M. Flamsted has in his catalogue. See Cancer.

In the Orion Nebula there are twenty-one stars. Father le Comte adds that in the constellation of Pleiades there are forty; twelve in the star in the middle of the sword of Orion; five hundred in a range of two degrees in the same constellation, and two thousand five hundred in the entire constellation. Chambers.

By using a more powerful telescope, it was discovered that at least several of these appearances not only were not caused by the clusters of stars that had been imagined, but even didn’t contain any, and appeared to be only large oval areas that are luminous, or of a light brighter than that of the sky. Hevelius provided a table of nebulae, or spots, widely spread across the sky. M. de Maupertuis, in his discourse on the different figures of stars, proposed a new conjecture on the subject. According to him, there may be in heaven masses of matter, called luminous , that reflect light, whose shapes are spheroids of all kinds, some approaching perfect sphericity, others very flattened. Such celestial bodies, he said, should cause similar appearances to those under discussion. He does not determine whether the matter of which these bodies are formed is as bright as that of the stars, or whether it is less bright only because it is farther away. We are not sure if the celestial bodies that form these splotches are further or less distant than the fixed stars in the sky. The immensity of the skies offers and will offer still in the coming centuries a matter for continual observation and endless conjecture. The prodigious distance of everything beyond the planets will probably never be overcome by any instrument, and the whole industry of men will not manage to bring closer the fixed stars, and the objects that are nearly in the same region, to the point of revealing something specific about their greatness, their figure, and their distance. Basically, if discoveries are only considered on the basis of their utility, the misfortune is not great. That which is more within our reach in every subject is, at the same time, by a wise provision, that which is the most interesting, and our lights are measured to our needs. Yet one cannot esteem enough those men who, raising themselves above our sphere, seem to wish to embrace the whole universe.