Venus on Mars

Gigantic dark ring around Saturn!

Posted in Author's Notes by janmillsapps on October 7, 2009

Announced today.

Saturn Lamp

Saturn Lamp at Lowell Observatory

Makes me think about how new discoveries in our Solar System can come at any time, upsetting what we thought we knew up to this point.  Percival Lowell considered himself the first “planetologist,” a person who studied all the planets, trying to find comparative evolutionary paths among them.  His Martian canals so excited the public that many believed in their existence, and the existence of beings who constructed them, until close-up photography of the planet’s surface in the seventies revealed no such thing.  The idea of life on Mars survives, however.  Now we know there is water on the planet, maybe enough to have sustained life in the past, and maybe enough to do it again in the future, as soon as we figure out how to get there.

In his later years, perhaps trying to salvage a reputation that had been much maligned by other astronomers, Lowell revised his notion about life on Mars, saying that he never meant there were living Martians in any form resembling humans, but that conditions on Mars were favorable for supporting life in some form, at some time.  Looks like he got that one right.

If his primary planetary obsession was Mars, then Saturn ran a close second.

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