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Works by Aristotle
Pages of Meteorology

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Sometimes on a fine night we see a variety of appearances that

form in the sky: 'chasms' for instance and 'trenches' and blood-red

colours. These, too, have the same cause. For we have seen that the

upper air condenses into an inflammable condition and that the

combustion sometimes takes on the appearance of a burning flame,

sometimes that of moving torches and stars. So it is not surprising

that this same air when condensing should assume a variety of colours.

For a weak light shining through a dense air, and the air when it acts

as a mirror, will cause all kinds of colours to appear, but especially

crimson and purple. For these colours generally appear when

fire-colour and white are combined by superposition. Thus on a hot

day, or through a smoky, medium, the stars when they rise and set look

crimson. The light will also create colours by reflection when the

mirror is such as to reflect colour only and not shape.

These appearances do not persist long, because the condensation of

the air is transient.

'Chasms' get their appearance of depth from light breaking out of

a dark blue or black mass of air. When the process of condensation

goes further in such a case we often find 'torches' ejected. When

the 'chasm' contracts it presents the appearance of a 'trench'.

In general, white in contrast with black creates a variety of

colours; like flame, for instance, through a medium of smoke. But by

day the sun obscures them, and, with the exception of crimson, the

colours are not seen at night because they are dark.

These then must be taken to be the causes of 'shooting-stars' and

the phenomena of combustion and also of the other transient

appearances of this kind.


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