Schiaparelli's observations of Mars

Schiaparelli's observations of Mars

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This image is part of the feature Vintage Astronomical Art

Credit: DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Schiaparelli's observations of Mars. This drawing was made by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910). His most detailed observations were made between 1877 and 1888. He named the 'seas' and 'continents' of Mars, and called the straight surface features channels (mistranslated as canals). He also noticed that the patterns on the surface changed with the Martian seasons. He wrongly assumed this to be due to seasonal changes in vegetation. It is now known that Mars is swept by powerful dust storms which alter the surface features. The idea that there was life on Mars was very popular around the end of the 19th century.

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