Until the Mariner probes visit to Mars, there has
always been a bit of mystery surrounding this
planet. Most of this mysticism is evident in movies
and literature of the time - like the War of the
Worlds radio drama by Orson Wells. The idea of
"Martians" was the birth of the movie aliens we see
even today. But where did all of this come from?
In 1877, Giovanni Schiaparelli used a large
telescope to view Mars during its close encounter
Earth - called perihelic opposition
(which means the
orbit of Mars was at its closest
Earth). A map was drawn by Schiaparelli and he described some of the features
on Mars as canali. In Italian, canali means
"channels" - a natural occurring feature. This
however was translated into canals in English
which means the artificial features used to channel
water. The image below shows the map created by
The presence of these "canals" indicated
intelligent life as these "canals" were used to
channel the water from the poles to the highland
One of the world famous Astronomers,
Percival Lowell, became a strong proponent of the
canal theory until his death. Continual observations
led by Lowell resulted in more detailed maps to be
Of course the image from the Mariner probe shows a
No canals are present. Instead, we see what we often
see with many things - including constellations. An
|The Mars face from the
Viking I orbiter (1976) sparked some "conspiracy
theories" as the NASA's knowledge of aliens.
||But when the
Surveyor images the same area in 2001, we
see only tricks of light and shadow.
Or is it...
I guess the planet is happy we are paying so much
attention to it!