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We can all feel that the sun is very hot, and we know that it is very big and a long way off. Let us first talk about the heat from the sun. On a cold day it is pleasant to go into a room with a good fire, and everybody knows that the nearer we go to the fire, the more strongly we feel the heat. The boy who is at the far end of the room may be shivering with cold, while those close to the fire are as hot as they find to be pleasant. If we could draw much nearer to the sun than we actually are, we should find the heat greatly increased. Indeed, if we went close enough, the temperature would rise so much that we could not endure it; we should be roasted. On the other hand, we should certainly be frozen to death if we were transported much further away from the sun than we are now. We are able to live comfortably, because our bodies are just arranged to suit the warmth which the sun sends to that distance from it at which the earth is actually placed.

Suppose you were able to endure any degree of heat, and that you had some way of setting out on a voyage to the sun. Take with you a wax candle, a leaden bullet, a penny, a poker, and a flint. Soon after you have started you find the warmth from the sun increasing, and the candle begins to get soft and melt away. Still, on you go, and you notice that the leaden bullet gets hotter and hotter, until it becomes too hot to touch, until at last the lead has melted, as the wax had previously done. However, you are still a very long way from the sun, and you have the penny, the poker, and the flint remaining. As you approach closer to the luminary the heat is ever increasing, and at last you notice that the penny is beginning to get red-hot; go still nearer, and it melts away, and follows the example of the bullet and the candle. If you still press onwards, you find that the iron poker, which was red-hot when the penny melted, begins to get brighter and brighter, till at last it is brilliantly white, and becomes so dazzling that you can hardly bear to look at it; then melting commences, and the poker is changed into liquid like the penny, the lead, and the wax. Yet a little nearer you may carry the flint, which is now glowing with the same fervor which fused the poker, but even the flint itself will have to yield at last and become, not merely a liquid like water, but a vapor like steam.

You will ask, how do we learn all this? As nobody could ever make such a journey, how can we feel certain that the sun is so excessively hot? I know that what I say is true for various reasons, but I will only mention one, which is derived from an experiment with the burning-glass, that most boys have often tried.

Science & Nature
September 15
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria