Page:Mars - Lowell.djvu/74

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position Mars would have at his surface an atmosphere of about fourteen hundredths, or one seventh, of the density of our terrestrial one.

Observation supports this general supposition; for the cloudless character of the Martian skies is precisely what we should look for in a rare air. Clouds are congeries of globules of water or particles of ice buoyed up by the air about them. The smaller these are, the more easily are they buoyed up, because gravity, which tends to pull them down, acts upon their mass, while the resistance they offer varies as the surface they present to the air, and this is relatively greater in the smaller particles. The result is that the smaller particles can float in thinner air. We see the principle exemplified in our terrestrial clouds; the low nimbus being formed of comparatively large globules, while the high cirrus is made up of very minute particles. If we go yet higher, we reach a region incapable of supporting clouds of any kind, so rarefied is its air. This occurs about five miles above the Earth’s surface; and yet even at this height the density of our air is greater than is the probable density of the air at the surface of Mars. We see, therefore, that the Martian atmosphere should from its rarity prove cloudless, just as we observe it to be.

So far in this our investigation of the Martian atmosphere we have been indebted solely to the