Page:Mars - Lowell.djvu/23

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MARS


I

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

I. AS A STAR

Once in about every fifteen years a startling visitant makes his appearance upon our midnight skies,—a great red star that rises at sunset through the haze about the eastern horizon, and then, mounting higher with the deepening night, blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself. Startling for its size, the stranger looks the more fateful for being a fiery red. Small wonder that by many folk it is taken for a portent. Certainly, no one who had not followed in their courses what the Greeks so picturesquely called “the wanderers” (οἱ πλανῆται) would recognize in the apparition an orderly member of our own solar family. Nevertheless, one of the wanderers it is, for that star is the planet Mars, large because for the moment near, having in due course again been overtaken by the Earth, in