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The fifty-second annual report of the Astronomical Observatory for the year ending September 30, 1897, shows that the strongest feature of the department in comparison with other observatories is the large endowment for current expenses, which makes it possible to undertake and carry to completion extensive investigations. As regards permanent plant, however, the Observatory falls far behind not only observatories of the first rank, but even those of the second class. The photographic plates are housed in a modern brick building, but the other buildings are all old wooden structures, liable to destruction by fire, together with the instruments, manuscripts and books. The things chiefly needed now are a large telescope for the Arequipa Station, a library building, and a modern machine shop.
Seventeen new variable stars have been discovered by examination of the spectra contained on photographic plates taken with the Draper telescope, and twelve more variables from photographic charts. The distribution of telegraphic announcements of discovery has been continued as in past years. Astronomers are requested to continue to send to their Observatory announcements of this discoveries for transmission to the observatories of Europe and American.
The principal work at the station at Arequipa, Peru, has been the obtaining of charts of clusters and of the brighter stars. The work has remained under the direction of Professor Bailey, and Professor Upton, of Brown University, has also spent a large part of the year there.
The library of the observatory has been increased during the year by the addition of 368 volumes and 1509 pamphlets.
The most interesting results of the year's work have been in the observations made with the meridian photometer, and in the experiments with kites at the Blue Hill Observatory. As a result of observations taken on 152 nights the total number of photometric settings is 100, 052, which is greater than that obtained in any previous year. The observations of all the stars north of 40 degrees, of the magnitude of 7.5 and brighter, are nearly completed. The exploration of the upper air with kites lifting automatic instruments which record atmospheric conditions has been continued. Last September records were brought down from a height of 9,255 feet, which is the greatest altitude ever reached by kites, and later another ascent was made which promised to be still higher but the wires holding the kite broke and the kite and instruments were lost. They have, however, been replaced.
These experiments have been greatly facilitated by a grant from the Hodgkins Fund of the Smithsonian Institute.
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