Red Planet Pen (Blog Issue #6)
By Nicole Willett, Education Coordinator
The issue of water on Mars has been debated for over a century. The observations of Giovanni Schiaparelli in approximately 1877 started the frenzy over water on Mars. When Schiaparelli observed what he thought were channels on Mars he called them canali which means channels. When his findings were published, There is a distinct difference between channels and canals. A channel is a naturally occurring groove in the ground where water or some other fluid has eroded the soil away to make a riverbed. A canal is thought to be something made by people or other beings, for water to flow through. So the speculation of water on the Red Planet began.
Percival Lowell built a telescope specifically to observe Mars. He was intrigued with the findings of Schiaparelli. He studied the planet for 15 years with his new telescope in Flagstaff, Az. His sketches show many features that at the time were considered to be evidence of intelligent beings on Mars. Many people disagreed with Lowell’s observations and he was ostracized by some. As technology advanced, we discovered that some of the geological features were present, but not in the exact state recorded by Lowell. The Mariner 4 and 9 spacecraft proved that the drawings Lowell made were not accurate. However, the spacecraft proved that there were many channels that once held liquid that flowed over the surface of Mars.
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