All people who are interested in space, of course, know the story of the ‘Martian canal.’ A saga about these elusive water arteries of the Red Planet was launched by famous Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. It happened in 1877 when Mars was as close to Earth as possible. The scientist discovered some interesting features on the surface of the Red Planet.
Who built the Canals of Mars?
In subsequent observations, Schiaparelli drew increasingly complex maps. On them, the channels of Mars became an increasingly prominent feature of its surface. And it seemed that their number was increasing depending on the season on the Red Planet. In general, the scientist supported the opinion of some other astronomers that canals are natural waterways. However, he had never objected to the assumption that the channels of Mars could be built by intelligent creatures.
In general, Schiaparelli’s ideas did not receive serious support in the scientific community. Famous scientists such as Asaph Hall, the man who discovered the moons of Mars, or Edward Barnard, the discoverer of Amalthea, Jupiter’s small satellite, had never seen any channels on the Red Planet.
Firstly, are there really any lines on Mars? Secondly, the question is whether those lines were permanent or not. Or did they arise only temporarily? For example, in the process of melting water ice, or maybe their appearance caused the growth of Martian vegetation in the warm season. Such an assumption was made by William Pickering in 1888, and it received good support in the scientific world. Finally, the question arose of whether the channels of Mars were natural formations or artificial structures. The latter assumption did not receive serious support among professional astronomers, but it turned out to be very interesting for the general public.
In the last decades of the nineteenth century, there was an extraordinary increase in industrial production. Scientific and technological progress was rapidly striding forward. Dreamers such as Jules Verne talked about unusual technologies and traveling to other worlds. Therefore, the idea that intelligent beings may well live in those worlds was quite common in society. And therefore, nobody doubted that if people can build giant canals, why other civilizations cannot do this. And the Martians are perhaps older and wiser than us, so they could have done it even better.
Mars and its inhabitants
Many people felt the almost mystical, otherworldly charm of the Martian channels. Science fiction writers have made full use of the theme of Martian civilization in their works. And this further stimulated interest in the Red Planet.
The debate about whether the channels of Mars actually exist and about their nature has not subsided for almost 100 years. All points on were cleared by the interplanetary station Mariner-9. In 1971-1972, the spacecraft photographed most of the surface of the Red Planet with high resolution, and there were no channels on Mars found.