What We Know About the Red Planet
History Water Ice Air Canals
Seasons Mountains Rocks SandDunes Rift Valley
Moons Dust Storms Stats Closest Kid Pix
Lunar Movies Life Search Wanted Exploring Mars

The popular notion of channels on the Red Planet:

Finding the Canals of Mars

Mars is a small planet never closer to the Earth than 35 million miles (56 million kilometers). That makes it difficult to see surface details.

Resolving surface features in a telescope image is even more of a problem because of the blurring effects of two atmospheres, Earth's and Mars'.

An example of confusion about Mars is found in the famous canals on Mars, They reportedly were first observed by Italian priest Pietro Secchi in 1876. Then Giovanni Schiaparelli published a map of Mars in 1877. He assigned names to bright and dark features which included a large number of straight-line features that Schiaparelli and Secchi called "canali." The mistranslation in English-speaking countries of "canali" into "canal," instead of the correct "channel," brought a misleading connotation of artificial construction by Martians that had not been intended by Schiaparelli and Secchi.

The popular notion that Martian canals had been constructed by an heroic, intelligent race tapping melting polar ice for water to irrigate equatorial crops was argued persuasively by the famous astronomer Percival Lowell in his 1895 book. Not everyone agreed with the canal theory, but the idea of Mars supporting life became established and persists today.

Why Is It Called the Red Planet?

No other world has tickled the human fancy more than Mars. It seems nothing in Outer Space fires the imagination more than the Red Planet.

Ancient Romans surely didn't know much about Mars, except it was a planet and it was red. They saw it as an angry light in the heavens worthy of the name of their mythical god of war.

Today, we still call Mars the Red Planet because it is easily distinguished in the night sky by its reddish color which comes from rusty sand and rocks that cover the Martian surface.

Learn more:
Human Exploration of Mars:
There have been three stages of exploration so far
Sand dunes: Dust Storms: Air: Carbon Dioxide: Outflow Channels: Valley Networks: Rift Valley: Ice: Ice caps: Frost: Water: Artesian Water: Mars Weather: Mars Photo Galleries: Planet features: Canals: Rocks: Mountains: Dating and aging: Seasons:
Exploring Mars
Mars Probes
Probes of the Past
Probes of the Future
Mars Water
Mars Canals
Mars Air
Mars Rocks
Mars Seasons
Mars Mountains
Mars Rift Valley
Mars Moons
Mars Life Search
Mars Dust Storms
Mars Stats
Mars Nearby
Mars history
Mars Resources
Mars Orbiter 2005
Mars Scout 2007
Rover Spirit 2003
Rover Opportunity 2003
Express 2003
Odyssey 2001
Polar Lander 1999
Climate Orbiter 1998
Deep Space 2 1999
Global Surveyor 1996
Pathfinder Lander 1996
Rover Sojourner 1996
Pathfinder Mission 1996
Viking-1 Lander 1975
Viking-2 Orbiter 1975
Viking-1 Lander 1975
Viking-1 Orbiter 1975
Mariner 9 Orbiter 1971
Mars 3 Lander 1971
Mariner 4 Flyby 1964
Viking Mission 1975
Mars Meteorites - JPL
2003 & Beyond - Goddard
2005 & Beyond - JPL
Mars Exploration - JPL
Plans to Explore Planets

Solar System - JPL
Welcome to the Planets - JPL
Planetary Photojournal - JPL
Mars - Athena - NASA Ames
Solar System Tour - BBC
Mars - New York Times
Windows...Universe - UMich
Mars - Apollo Society
Planetary Society
Mars Society
The Nine Planets
Planet Mars Company
Solar System - STO
Solar System Tour
Artist conception of Mars with water four billion years ago
Solar System    Search STO    STO Cover    About STO    Questions    Suggestions    E-Mail     © 2005 Space Today Online