cameraPicture This!

Picture Mars from an observatory telescope in Italy in 1877. You see what appear to be lines on the surface and use the Italian word "canali" to describe them. A few years later another astronomer in an observatory in the United States uses a more powerful telescope to view Mars. He misinterprets "canali" to mean canals and builds on that idea to desribe canals and oceans in his view of Mars. Now flash forward to 1976. The Viking Lander I actually lands on Mars and takes the first color photo of the surface from the surface. Where are the canals and oceans?

Look at the images below. How has man's views of Mars changed over the years as technology has improved? Click on the orange links to learn more about the scientists, the technology they used, and their theories. Then think about the thought questions. Finally go to Hypothesize That! to try your hand at imagining what we'll know about Mars in the future.

Viking Lander I
Questions to ponder as you explore this site:
  1. What were the qualifications of the astromoners?
  2. What technology was used to view Mars?
  3. How close to Mars was the technology?
  4. How much detail can you see? Is it affected by the technology and/or the distance of it from Mars?
  5. What ideas about Mars came from this view? Would you have hypothesized the same theories?
  6. How do the image and hypothesis compare to those before and/or after it?
  7. Has the technology used affected our perceptions of Mars? If so, how?


The Astronomers and The Theories

Photo of Schiaparelli

Brera telescope

Map of Mars

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli 1835-1910

Schaiparelli, a well respected Italian Astronomer, viewed Mars from the Brera Observatory, Milan, Italy, in 1877 while he was the observatory director. Seeing more detail than usual when viewing planets, he was able to see surface lines in an apparent pattern. He referred to these as "canali", the Italian word for channels. Other astronomers would misinterpret this to mean the English word "canals". Schiaparelli never promoted the idea of constructed water canals on Mars, but then he didn't refute that hypothesis either.

To find out more about Schiaparelli click on these links:

Schiaparelli & his Canali People Who Gave Us Mars The Planet Mars: A History...

Mars Hill telescope

Map of Mars

Percival Lowell 1855-1916

Lowell used his own observatory, Mars Hill, built near Flagstaff, Arizona, to view Mars through the clear desert air. He was a wealthy amateur astronomer who was facinated with Schiaparelli's "canali". He took that idea, and combining it with his clearer view of Mars, developed the theory of dying civilizations creating vast networks of canals to provide water on a planet turning to desert.

To find out more about Lowell click on these links:

People Who Gave Us Mars Mars by Percival Lowell Lowell's Drawings of Mars

Photo of Vikinig 1

Viking Lander photo

NASA's Viking Mission 1975-1976

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched the Viking Mission to Mars on August 20, 1975. The two spacecraft, Viking I and II landed in separate spots on Mars on June 19, 1976, after orbiting Mars to take pictures of possible landing sites. Viking I took the first color picture of the surface of Mars. Viking experiments conducted by NASA scientists have shown the presence of volcanoes, lava plains, immense canyons, cratered areas, wind-formed features, and evidence of surface water. There is still debate as to whether some of these were "constructed" by "Martians".

For more information about the Viking Mission click on these links:

Viking Mission to Mars Viking I Lander Vikings and Beyond

When you're done exploring here use the navigation buttons to go to Hypothesize That!