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Book II Jules Verne

The Astronomer

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Table Of Contents: Off on a Comet

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From the prima facie appearance of his papers, then, it seemed probable that the astronomer, during his sojourn at Formentera, had been devoting himself to the study of cometary orbits; and as calculations of this kind are ordinarily based upon the assumption that the orbit is a parabola, it was not unlikely that he had been endeavoring to trace the path of some particular comet.

"I wonder whether these calculations were made before or after the 1st of January; it makes all the difference," said Lieutenant Procope.

"We must bide our time and hear," replied the count.

Servadac paced restlessly up and down. "I would give a month of my life," he cried, impetuously, "for every hour that the old fellow goes sleeping on."

"You might be making a bad bargain," said Procope, smiling. "Perhaps after all the comet has had nothing to do with the convulsion that we have experienced."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed the captain; "I know better than that, and so do you. Is it not as clear as daylight that the earth and this comet have been in collision, and the result has been that our little world has been split off and sent flying far into space?"

Count Timascheff and the lieutenant looked at each other in silence. "I do not deny your theory," said Procope after a while. "If it be correct, I suppose we must conclude that the enormous disc we observed on the night of the catastrophe was the comet itself; and the velocity with which it was traveling must have been so great that it was hardly arrested at all by the attraction of the earth."

"Plausible enough," answered Count Timascheff; "and it is to this comet that our scientific friend here has given the name of Gallia."

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It still remained a puzzle to them all why the astronomer should apparently be interested in the comet so much more than in the new little world in which their strange lot was cast.

"Can you explain this?" asked the count.

"There is no accounting for the freaks of philosophers, you know," said Servadac; "and have I not told you that this philosopher in particular is one of the most eccentric beings in creation?"

"Besides," added the lieutenant, "it is exceedingly likely that his observations had been going on for some considerable period before the convulsion happened."

Thus, the general conclusion arrived at by the Gallian Academy of Science was this: That on the night of the 31st of December, a comet, crossing the ecliptic, had come into collision with the earth, and that the violence of the shock had separated a huge fragment from the globe, which fragment from that date had been traversing the remote inter-planetary regions. Palmyrin Rosette would doubtless confirm their solution of the phenomenon.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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