Page:Mars - Lowell.djvu/24

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her swifter circling about the Sun, at that point in space where his orbit and hers make their closest approach.

Although the apparent new-comer is neither new nor intrinsically great, he possesses for us an interest out of all proportion to his size or his relative importance in the universe; and this for two reasons: first, because he is of our own cosmic kin; and secondly, because no other heavenly body, Venus and the Moon alone excepted, ever approaches us so near. What is more, we see him at such times better than we ever do Venus, for the latter, contrary to what her name might lead one to expect, keeps her self so constantly cloaked in cloud that we are permitted only the most meagre peeps at her actual surface; while Mars, on the other hand, lets us see him as he is, no cloud-veil of his, as a rule, hiding him from view. He thus offers us opportunities for study at closer range than does any other body in the universe except the Moon. And the Moon balks inquiry at the outset. For that body, from which we might hope to learn much, appears upon inspection to be, cosmically speaking, dead. Upon her silent surface next to nothing now takes place save for the possible crumbling in of a crater wall. For all practical purposes Mars is our nearest neighbor in space. Of all the orbs about us, therefore, he holds out most