1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mars (planet)
MARS, in astronomy, the fourth planet in the order of distance from the sun, and the next outside the earth. To the naked eye it appears as a bright star of a decidedly reddish or lurid tint, which contrasts strongly with the whiteness of Venus and Jupiter. At opposition it is brighter than a first magnitude star, sometimes outshining even Sirius. It is by virtue of its position the most favourably situated of all the planets for observation from the earth. The eccentricity of its orbit, 0.0933, is greater than that of any other major planet except Mercury. The result is that at an opposition near perihelion Mars is markedly nearer to the earth than at an opposition near aphelion, the one distance being about 35 million miles; the other 63 million. These numbers express only the minimum distances at or near opposition, and not the distance at other times. The time of revolution of Mars is 686.98 days. The mean interval between oppositions is 2 years 491 days, but, owing to the eccentricity of the orbit, the actual excess over two years ranges from 36 days to more than 21 months. Its period of rotation is 24 h. 37 m. 22.66 s. (H. G. Bakhuyzen).
|Fig. 1.—Orbits of Mars and the Earth, showing aspects of the planet relative to the earth and sun.|
Motions.—The accompanying diagram will convey a notion of the varied aspects presented by the planet, of the cycles of change through which they go, and of the order in which the oppositions follow each other. The outer circle represents the orbit of Mars, the inner one that of the earth. AE is the line of the equinoxes from which longitudes are counted. The perihelion of Mars is in longitude 335° at the point π. The ascending node Ω is in longitude 47°. The line of nodes makes an angle of 74° with the major axis, so that Mars is south of the ecliptic near perihelion, but north of it near aphelion. Around the inner circle, representing the earth’s orbit, are marked the months during which the earth passes through the different parts of the orbit. It will be seen that the distance of Mars at the time of any opposition depends upon the month in which opposition occurs. The least possible distance would occur in an opposition about the end of August, a little before Mars reached the perihelion, because the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit throws our planet a little farther from the sun and nearer the orbit of Mars in July than it does in August. The opposition of 1909 occurred on the 24th of September, at a point marked by the year near the equinox, and the month and years of the oppositions following, up to 1941, are also shown in the same way. Tracing them around, it will be seen that the points of opposition travel around the orbit in about 16 years, so that oppositions near perihelion, when Mars is therefore nearest the earth, occur at intervals of 15 or 17 years.
The axis of rotation of the planet is inclined between 23° and 24° to the orbit, and the equator of the planet has the same inclination to the plane of the orbit. The north pole is directed toward a point in longitude 355°, in consequence of which the projection of the planet’s axis upon the plane of the ecliptic is nearly parallel to the line of our equinoxes. This projection is shown by the dotted line SP–NP, which corresponds closely to the line of the Martian solstices. It will be seen that at a September opposition the north pole of the planet is turned away from the sun, so that only the southern hemisphere is presented to us, and only the south pole can be seen from the earth. The Martian vernal equinox is near Q and the northern solstice near A. Here at the point S.P. the northern hemisphere is turned toward the sun. It will be seen that the aspect of the planet at opposition, especially the hemisphere which is visible, varies with the month of opposition, the general rule being that the northern hemisphere of the planet is entirely seen only near aphelion oppositions, and therefore when farthest from us, while the southern hemisphere is best seen near perihelion oppositions. The distances of the planet from the sun at aphelion and at perihelion are nearly in the ratio 6:5. The intensity of the sun’s radiation on the planet is as the inverse square of this ratio. It is therefore more than 40% greater near perihelion than near aphelion. It follows from all this that the southern hemisphere is subjected to a more intense solar heat than the northern, and must therefore have a warmer summer season. But the length of the seasons is the inverse of this, the summer of the northern hemisphere being longer and the heat of the southern hemisphere shorter in proportion.
Surface Features.—The surface features of the planet will be better understood by first considering what is known of its atmosphere and of the temperature which probably prevails on its surface. One method of detecting an atmosphere is through its absorption of the different rays in the spectrum of the sunlight reflected from the planet. Several observers have thought that they saw fairly distinct evidence of such absorption when the planet was examined with the spectroscope. But the observations were not conclusive; and with the view of setting the question at rest if possible, W. W. Campbell at the Lick Observatory instituted a very careful series of spectroscopic observations. To reduce the chances of error to a minimum the spectrum of Mars was compared with that of the moon when the two bodies were near each other. Not the slightest difference could be seen between any of the lines in the two spectra. It being certain that the spectrum of the moon is not affected by absorption, it followed that any absorption produced by the atmosphere of Mars is below the limit of perception. It was considered by Campbell that if the atmosphere of Mars were 1 that of the earth in density, the absorption would have been visible. Consequently the atmosphere of Mars would be of a density less than 1 that of the earth.
Closely related to the question of an atmosphere is that of possible clouds above the surface of the planet, the existence of which, if real, would necessarily imply an atmosphere of a density approaching the limit set by Campbell’s observations. The most favourable opportunity for seeing clouds would be when they are formed above a region of the planet upon which the sun is about to rise, or from which it has just been setting. The cloud will then be illuminated by the sun’s rays while the surface below it is in darkness, and will appear to an observer on the earth as a spot of light outside the terminator, or visible edge of the illuminated part of the disk. It is noticeable that phenomena more or less of this character, though by no means common, have been noted by observers on several occasions. Among these have been the Mt Hamilton and Lowell observers, and W. H. Pickering at Arequipa. Campbell has shown that many of them may be accounted for by supposing the presence of mountains not more than two miles in height, which may well exist on the planet. While this hypothesis will serve to explain several of these appearances, this can scarcely be said of a detached spot observed on the evening of the 26th of May 1903, at the Lowell Observatory. Dr Slipher, who first saw it, was so struck by the appearance of the projection from the terminator upon the dark side of the disk that he called the other observers to witness it. Micrometric measures showed that it was some 300 miles in length, and that its highest point stood some 17 miles above the surface of the planet. That a cloud should be formed at such a height in so rare an atmosphere seems difficult to account for except on the principle that the rate of diminution of the density of an atmosphere with its height is proportional to the intensity of gravity, which is smaller on Mars than on the earth. The colour was not white, but tawny, of the tint exhibited by a cloud of dust. Percival Lowell therefore suggests that this and other appearances of the same kind seen from time to time are probably dust clouds, travelling over the desert, as they sometimes do on the earth, and settling slowly again to the ground.
Temperature.—Up to a recent time all that could be said of the probable temperature of Mars was that, being more distant from the sun than the earth, and having a rarer atmosphere, it had a general mean temperature probably below that of the earth. Greater precision can now be given to this theoretical conclusion by recent determination of the law of radiation of heat by bodies at different temperatures. Regarding it as fairly well established that at ordinary temperatures the radiation varies directly as the fourth power of the absolute temperature, it is possible when the “solar constant” is known to compute the temperature of a non-coloured body at the distance of Mars which presents every part of its surface in rapid succession to the sun’s rays in the absence of atmosphere only. This has been elaborately done for the major planets by J. H. Poynting, who computes that the mean temperature of Mars is far below the freezing point of water. On the other hand an investigation made by Lowell in 1907, taking into account the effect of the rare atmosphere on the heat lost by reflection, and of several other factors in the problem hitherto overlooked, led him to the conclusion that the mean temperature is about 48° Fahr. But the temperature may rise much above the mean on those regions of the surface exposed to a nearly vertical noon-day sun. The diurnal changes of temperature, being diminished by an atmosphere, must be greater on Mars than on the earth, so that the vicissitudes of temperature are there very great, but cannot be exactly determined, because they must depend upon the conductivity and thermal capacity of the matter composing the surface of the planet. What we can say with confidence is that, during the Martian winter of between eight and twelve of our months, the regions around either pole must fall to a temperature nearer the absolute zero than any known on this planet. In fact the climatic conditions in all but the equatorial regions are probably of the same nature as those which prevail on the tops of our highest mountains, except that the cold is more intense.
Having these preliminary considerations in mind, we may now study the features presented to our view by the surface of the planet. These have a permanence and invariability which markedly differentiate them from the ever varying surfaces of Jupiter and Saturn, and show that what we see is a solid surface, like that of our earth. They were observed and delineated by the leading astronomers of the 16th century, especially Huygens, Cassini and Hooke. These observers could only distinguish the different regions upon the planet as bright or dark. Reasoning as they did in the case of the moon, it was naturally supposed that the brighter regions were land and the darker ones seas. The observers of our time find that the darker regions have a slightly blue-green aspect, which might suggest the idea of water, but are variegated in a way to show that they must be composed of a solid crust, like the brighter regions. The latter have a decidedly warm red or ochre tint, which gives the characteristic colour to the planet as seen by the naked eye. The regions in equatorial and middle latitudes, which are those best seen from our planet, show a surface of which the general aspect is not dissimilar to that which would be presented by the deserts of our earth when seen from the moon. With each improvement in the telescope the numerous drawings of the planet show more definiteness and certainty in details. About 1830 a fairly good map was made by W. Beer and J. H. Mädler, a work which has been repeated by a number of observers since that time. The volume of literature on the subject, illustrated by drawings and maps, has become so great that it is impossible here to present even an abstract of it; and it would not be practicable, even were it instructive, to enter upon any detailed description of Martian topography. A few great and well-marked features were depicted by the earliest observers, who saw them so plainly that they may be recognized by their drawings at the present time. There is also a general agreement among nearly all observers with good instruments as to the general features of the planet, but even in the latest drawings there is a marked divergence as to the minuter details. This is especially true of the boundaries of the more ill-defined regions, and of the faint and difficult markings of various kinds which are very numerous on every part of the planet. There is not even a close agreement between the drawings by the same observer at different oppositions; but this may be largely due to seasonal and other changes.
The most striking feature, and one which shows the greatest resemblance to a familiar terrestrial process, is that when either polar region comes into view after being turned nearly a year away from the sun, it is found to be covered with a white cap. This gradually contracts in extent as the sun shines upon it during the remaining half of the Martian year, sometimes nearly disappearing. That this change is due to the precipitation of watery vapour in the form of ice, snow or frost during the winter, and its melting or evaporation when exposed to the sun’s rays, is so obvious a conclusion that it has never been seriously questioned. It has indeed been suggested that the deposit may be frozen carbonic acid. While we cannot pronounce this out of the question, the probabilities seem in favour of the deposit being due to the precipitation of aqueous vapour in a frozen form. At a temperature of −50° C., which is far above what we can suppose to prevail in the polar regions during the winter, the tension of aqueous vapour is 0.034 mm. On the other hand Faraday found the tension of carbonic acid to be still an entire atmosphere at as low a temperature as −80° C. Numerically exact statements are impossible owing to our want of knowledge of the actual temperature, which must depend partly upon air currents between the equator and the poles of Mars. It can, however, be said, in a general way, that a proportion of aqueous vapour in the rare atmosphere of Mars, far smaller than that which prevails on the earth, would suffice to explain the observed formation and disappearances of the polar caps. Since every improvement in the telescope and in the conditions of observation must enable modern observers to see all that their predecessors did and yet more, we shall confine our statements to the latest results. These may be derived from the work of Professor Lowell of Boston, who in 1894 founded an observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona, 7250 ft. above sea-level, and supplied it with a 24″ telescope, of which the main purpose was the study of Mars. This work has been continued with such care and assiduity that its results must take precedence of all others in everything that relates to our present subject.
Among the more probable conclusions to be drawn from Lowell’s observations, the following are of most interest. The darker areas are all seamed by lines and dots darker than themselves, which are permanent in position, so that there can be no bodies of water on the planet. On the other hand, their colour, blue-green, is that of vegetation. This fades out as vegetation would at certain seasons to faint blue-green, but in some places to a tawny brown. Each hemisphere undergoes these changes in its turn, the changes being opposite in opposite hemispheres. The changes in the dark areas follow some time after the melting of the polar caps. The aspect of these areas suggests old sea bottoms, and when on the terminator appear as depressions, though this may be only apparent and due to the dark colour. The smoothness and soft outline of the terminator shows that there are no mountains on Mars comparable with ours, but that the surface is surprisingly flat. White spots are occasionally visible in the tropical and temperate regions, which are perhaps due to the condensation of frost or snow, or to saline exudation such as seasonally occurs in India (Lowell). Moreover in winter the temperate zones are more or less covered by a whitish veil, which may be either hoar frost or cloud. A spring haze seems to surround the north polar cap during its most extensive melting; otherwise the Martian sky is quite clear, like that of a dry desert land. When either polar cap is melting it is bordered by a bluish area, which Lowell attributes to the water produced by the melting. But the obliquity at which the sun’s rays strike the surface as the cap is melting away is so great that it would seem to preclude the possibility of a temperature high enough to melt the snow into water. Under the low barometric pressure prevailing on the planet, snow would evaporate under the influence of the sun’s rays without changing into water. It is also contended that what looks like such a bluish border may be formed around a bright area by the secondary aberration of a refracting telescope.
The modern studies of Mars which have aroused so much public interest began with the work of Schiaparelli in 1877. Accepting the term “ocean,” used by the older observers, to designate the widely extended darker regions on the planet, and holding that they were really bodies of water, he found that they were connected by comparatively narrow streaks. (Schiaparelli considered them really water until after the Lowell observations.) In accordance with the adopted system of nomenclature, he termed these streaks canale, a word of which the proper rendering into English would be channels. But the word was actually translated into both English and French as canal, thus connoting artificiality in the supposed waterways, which were attributed to the inhabitants of the planet. The fact that they were many miles in breadth, and that it was therefore absurd to call them canals, did not prevent this term from being so extensively used that it is now scarcely possible to do away with it. A second series of observations was made by Schiaparelli at the opposition of 1879, when the planet was farther away, but was better situated as to altitude above the horizon. He now found a number of additional channels, which were much finer than those he had previously drawn. The great interest attaching to their seemingly artificial character gave an impetus to telescopic study of the planet which has continued to the present time. New canals were added, especially at the Lowell Observatory, until the entire number listed in 1908 amounted to more than 585. The general character of this complex system of lines is described by Lowell as a network covering the whole face of the planet, light and dark regions alike, and connecting at either end with the respective polar caps there. At their junctions are small dark pinheads of spots. The lines vary in size between themselves, but each maintains its own width throughout. But the more difficult of these objects are only seen occasionally and are variable in definiteness. Of two canals equally well situated for seeing, only one may be visible at one time and only the other at other times. If this variability of aspect among different canals is true as they are seen from the Lowell Observatory, we find it true to a much greater extent when we compare descriptions by different observers. At Flagstaff, the most favourably situated of all the points of observation, they are seen as fine sharp lines, sometimes as well marked as if drawn with a pencil. But other observers see them with varying degrees of breadth and diffuseness.
One remarkable feature of these objects is their occasional “gemination,” some of the canals appearing as if doubled. This was first noticed by Schiaparelli, and has been confirmed, so far as observations can confirm it, by other observers. Different explanations of this phenomenon have been suggested, but the descriptions of it are not sufficiently definite to render any explanation worthy of entire confidence possible. Indeed the more cautious astronomers, who have not specially devoted themselves to the particular phenomena, reserve a doubt as to how far the apparent phenomena of the finer canals are real, and what the markings which give rise to their appearance might prove to be if a better and nearer view of the planet than is now possible could be obtained. Of the reality of the better marked ones there can be no doubt, as they have been seen repeatedly by many observers, including those at the Lick Observatory, and have actually been photographed at the Lowell Observatory. The doubt is therefore confined to the vast network of lines so fine that they never certainly have been seen elsewhere than at Flagstaff. The difficulty of pronouncing upon their reality arises from the fact that we have to do mainly with objects not plainly visible (or, as Lowell contends, not plainly visible elsewhere). The question therefore becomes one of psychological optics rather than of astronomy. When the question is considered from this point of view it is found that combinations of light and shaded areas very different from continuous lines, will, under certain conditions, be interpreted by the eye as such lines; and when such is the case, long practice by an observer, however carefully conducted, may confirm him in this interpretation. To give a single example of the principles involved; it is found by experiment that if, through a long line so fine as to approach the limit of visibility, segments not too near each other, or so short that they would not be visible by themselves, be taken out, their absence from the line will not be noticed, and the latter will still seem continuous. In other words we do not change the aspect of the line by taking away from it a part which by itself would be invisible. This act of the eye, in interpreting a discontinuous series of very faint patches as a continuous line, is not, properly speaking, an optical illusion, but rather a habit. The arguments for the reality of all the phenomena associated with the canals, while cogent, have not sufficed to bring about a general consensus of opinion among critics beyond the limit already mentioned.
Accepting the view that the dark lines on Mars are objectively real and continuous, and are features as definite in reality as they appear in the telescope, Professor Lowell has put forth an explanation of sufficient interest to be mentioned here. His first proposition is that lines frequently thousands of miles long, each following closely a great circle, must be the product of design rather than of natural causes. His explanation is that they indicate the existence of irrigating canals which carry the water produced annually by the melting of the polar snows to every part of the planet. The actual canals are too minute to be visible to us. What we really see as dark lines are broad strips of vegetation, produced by artificial cultivation extending along each border of the irrigating streams. On the other hand, in the view of his critics, the quantity of ice or snow which the sun’s rays could melt around the poles of Mars, the rate of flow and evaporation as the water is carried toward the equator, and several other of the conditions involved, require investigation before the theory can be established.
The accompanying illustrations of Mars and its canals are those of Lowell, and represent the planet as seen by the Flagstaff observers.
Satellites and Pole of Mars.—At the opposition of Mars which occurred in August 1877 the planet was unusually near the earth. Asaph Hall, then in charge of the 26″ telescope at the Naval Observatory in Washington, took advantage of this favourable circumstance to make a careful search for a visible satellite of the planet. On the night of the 11th of August he found a faint object near the planet. Cloudy weather intervened, and the object was not again seen until the 16th, when it was found to be moving with the planet, leaving no doubt as to its being a satellite. On the night following an inner satellite much nearer the planet was observed. This discovery, apart from its intrinsic interest, is also noteworthy as the first of a series of discoveries of satellites of the outer planets. The satellites of Mars are difficult to observe, on account not merely of their faintness, but of their proximity to the planet, the light of which is so bright as to nearly blot out that of the satellite. Intrinsically the inner satellite is brighter than the outer one, but for the reason just mentioned it is more difficult to observe. The names given them by Hall were Deimos for the outer satellite and Phobos for the inner one, derived from the mythological horses that drew the chariot of the god Mars. A remarkable feature of the orbit of Phobos is that it is so near the planet as to perform a revolution in less than one-third that of the diurnal rotation of Mars. The result is that to an inhabitant of Mars this satellite would rise in the west and set in the east, making two apparent diurnal revolutions every day. The period of Deimos is only six days greater than that of a Martian day; consequently its apparent motion around the planet would be so slow that more than two days elapse between rising and setting, and again between setting and rising.
Owing to the minuteness of these bodies it is impossible to make any measures of their diameters. These can be inferred only from their brightness. Assuming them to be of the same colour as Mars, Lowell estimates them to be about ten miles for Deimos and somewhat more for Phobos. But these estimates are uncertain, not only from the somewhat hypothetical character of the data on which they rest, but from the difficulty of accurately estimating the brightness of such an object in the glare of the planet.
A long and careful series of observations was made upon these bodies by other observers. Later, especially at the very favourable oppositions of 1892 and 1894, observations were made by Hermann Struve at Poulkova, who subjected all the observations up to 1898 to a very careful discussion. He showed that the inclination of the planes of the orbits to the equator of the planet is quite small, thus making it certain that these two planes can never wander far from each other. In the following statement of the numerical elements of the entire system, Struve’s results are given for the satellites, while those of Lowell are adopted for the position of the plane of the equator.
The relations of the several planes can be best conceived by considering the points at which lines perpendicular to them, or their poles, meet the celestial sphere. By theory, the pole of the orbital plane of each satellite revolves round the pole of a certain fixed plane, differing less from the plane of the equator of Mars the nearer the satellite is to Mars. Lowell from a combination of his own observations with those of Schiaparelli, Lohse and Cerulli, found for the pole of the axis of rotation of Mars:—
Tilt of Martian Equator to Martian ecliptic, 23°. 59′. Hermann Struve, from the observations of the satellites, found theoretically the following positions of this pole, and of those of the fixed planes of the satellite orbits for 1900:—
|Pole of Mars: R.A.||= 317.25°||Dec. = 52.63°|
|Pole of fixed plane for Phobos||= 317.24°||= 52.64°|
|Pole of fixed plane for Deimos||= 316.20°||= 53.37°|
Lowell’s position of the pole is that now adopted by the British Nautical Almanac.
The actual positions of the poles of the satellite—orbits revolve around these poles of the two fixed planes in circles. Putting N for the right-ascensions of their nodes on the plane of the terrestrial equator, and J for their angular distance from the north terrestrial pole, N, and J, for the corresponding poles of the fixed planes, and t for the time in years after 1900, Struve’s results are:—
(N − N1) sin J = 97.6′ sin (356.8° − 6.375° t)
(N − N1) sin J = 53.1′ sin (257°.1′ − 158.0° t)
The other elements are:—
|Mean long. 1894, Oct. 0.0 G.M.T||186.25°||296.13°|
|Mean daily motion (tropical)||285.16198°||1128.84396°|
|Mean distance (Δ = 1)||32.373″||12.938″|
|Long. of pericentre, (π + N)||264° + 6.375° t||14° + 158.0° t|
|Eccentricity of orbit||0.0031||0.0217|
|Epoch for t||1900.0||1900.0|
Bibliography.—Flammarion, La Planète Mars et ses conditions d’habitilité (Paris, 1892), embodies so copious a résumé of all the publications and drawings relating to Mars up to 1891 that there is little occasion for reference in detail to early publications. Among the principal sources may be mentioned the Monthly Notices and Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, the publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, especially vols. vi., viii. and ix., containing observations and discussions by the Mt Hamilton astronomers, and the journals, Sidereal Messenger, Astronomy and Astrophysics and Astrophysical Journal. Schiaparelli’s extended memoirs appeared under the general title Osservazioni astronomiche e fisiche sull’ asse di rotazione e sulla topografia del pianeta Marte, and were published in different volumes of the Memoirs of the Reale Accademia dei Lincei of Rome. The observations and drawings of Lowell are found in extenso in Annals of the Lowell Observatory. Lowell’s conclusions are summarized in Mars and its Canals, by Percival Lowell (1906), and Mars as the Abode of Life (1909). In connexion with his work may be mentioned Mars and its Mystery, by Edward S. Morse (Boston, 1906), the work of a naturalist who made studies of the planet at the Lowell Observatory in 1905. Brief discussions and notices will also be found in the Lowell Observatory Bulletins. The optical principles involved in the interpretations of the canals are discussed in recent volumes of the Monthly Notices, R.A.S., and in the Astrophysical Journal. In 1907 the veteran A. R. Wallace disputed Lowell’s views vigorously in his Is Mars Habitable? and was briefly answered by Lowell in Nature, who contended that Wallace’s theory was not in accord with celestial mechanics. (S. N.)
- Astronomy and Astrophysics, iii. 752, and Astron. Soc. of the Pacific, Publications, vi. 273 and ix. 109.
- According to Percival Lowell these results were, however, inconclusive because the strong atmospheric lines lie redwards beyond the part of the spectrum then possible to observe. Subsequently, by experimenting with sensitizing dyes, Dr Slipher of the Lowell Observatory succeeded in 1908 in photographing the spectrum far into the red. Comparison spectrograms of Mars and the Moon, taken by him at equal altitudes on such plates, eight in all, show the “a” band, the great band of water-vapour was distinctly stronger in the spectrum of Mars, thus affording what appeared decisive evidence of water vapour in the atmosphere of the planet.
- Lowell, Mars and its Canals, p. 101.
- Phil. Trans., vol. 202 A, p. 525.
- Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts and Sciences, vol. xlii. No. 25.
- Professor F. W. Very concurs with Lowell (Phil. Mag., 1908).
- According to Lowell, the climatic conditions are proportionally warm in summer.
- The great space penetration of the Lowell Observatory is shown in the case of stars. More stars have been mapped there in a given space than at the Lick, and Mr Ritchey of the Yerkes Observatory found stars easily visible there which were only just perceptible at Yerkes.
- As against this, Lowell’s answer is that the effect is not optical; for the belt surrounds the melting, not the making cap.
- For limits of this theory and Lowell’s view of its inapplicability to Mars, see Astrophys. Jour., Sept. 1907.
- Prof. Lowell’s theory is supported by so much evidence of different kinds that his own exposition should be read in extenso in Mars and its canals and Mars as the abode of life. In order, however, that his views may be adequately presented here, he has kindly supplied the following summary in his own words:— “Owing to inadequate atmospheric advantages generally, much misapprehension exists as to the definiteness with which the surface of Mars is seen under good conditions. In steady air the canals are perfectly distinct lines, not unlike the Fraunhofer ones of the Spectrum, pencil lines or gossamer filaments according to size. All the observers at Flagstaff concur in this. The photographs of them taken there also confirm it up to the limit of their ability. Careful experiments by the same observers on artificial lines show that if the canals had breaks amounting to 16 m. across, such breaks would be visible. None are; while the lines themselves are thousands of miles long and perfectly straight (Astrophys. Journ., Sept. 1907). Between expert observers representing the planet at the same epoch the accordance is striking; differences in drawings are differences of time and are due to seasonal and secular changes in the planet itself. These seasonal changes have been carefully followed at Flagstaff, and the law governing them detected. They are found to depend upon the melting of the polar caps. After the melting is under way the canals next the cap proceed to darken, and the darkening thence progresses regularly down the latitudes. Twice this happens every Martian year, first from one cap and then six Martian months later from the other. The action reminds one of the quickening of the Nile valley after the melting of the snows in Abyssinia; only with planet-wide rhythm. Some of the canals are paired. The phenomenon is peculiar to certain canals, for only about one-tenth of the whole number, 56 out of 585, ever show double and these do so regularly. Each double has its special width; this width between the pair being 400 m. in some cases, only 75 in others. Careful plotting has disclosed the fact that the doubles cluster round the planet’s equator, rarely pass 40° Lat., and never occur at the poles, though the planet’s axial tilt reveals all its latitudes to us in turn. They are thus features of those latitudes where the surface is greatest compared with the area of the polar cap, which is suggestive. Space precludes mention of many other equally striking peculiarities of the canals’ positioning and development. At the junctions of the canals are small, dark round spots, which also wax and wane with the seasons. These facts and a host of others of like significance have led Lowell to the conclusion that the whole canal system is of artificial origin, first because of each appearance and secondly because of the laws governing its development. Every opposition has added to the assurance that the canals are artificial; both by disclosing their peculiarities better and better and by removing generic doubts as to the planet’s habitability. The warmer temperature disclosed from Lowell’s investigation on the subject, and the spectrographic detection by Slipher of water-vapour in the Martian air, are among the latest of these confirmations.”—[Ed.]
- Bulletin Lowell Obsy., Monthly Notices, R.A.S. (1905), 66, p. 51.
- St Petersburg Memoirs, series viii., Phys. Mars-classe, vol. viii.