Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Observations of Mars in 1894

RH says..... 1894 was a significant year in astronomy for observations of Mars. While the Royal Observatory Greenwich, was not initially involved, E. Walter Maunder, who headed Greenwich's Photographic and Spectroscopic Department, was later to join the Martian 'canals' debate sparked by the observations of Percival Lowell. Influenced by the observations of Giovanni Schiaparelli, who had named certain features on Mars 'canali' (meaning a natural water channel, but mistranslated as 'canals'), and the popular writings of Camille Flammarion, Lowell set out to study the solar system from his observatory in Arizona. In May 1894 he said:
Speculation has been singularly fruitful as to what these markings on our next to nearest neighbor in space may mean. Each astronomer holds a different pet theory on the subject, and pooh-poohs those of all the others. Nevertheless, the most self-evident explanation from the markings themselves is probably the true one; namely, that in them we are looking upon the result of the work of some sort of intelligent beings. . . . [T]he amazing blue network on Mars hints that one planet besides our own is actually inhabited now.
He began observing the same month and saw what he hoped, or expected, to see - and created these iconic maps of the Martian surface. See this chapter on Lowell of William Sheehan's The Planet Mars: a History of Observation and Discovery for more, and I will return to Maunder's response in a later post.....

Drawings of Mars in 1894 from Percival Lowell's 'Mars' (1895)

1 comment:

  1. Just found your post today. Thought I'd include my 'recent' awarded image as I produce very large pastel sketches from observation.