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The Measure & Mismeasure of MARS…. David Seidel Jet Propulsion Laboratory Education Office

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The Measure & Mismeasure

of MARS…

David Seidel

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Education Office


This presentation has most of its imagery cut out to meet the site upload limit. For a more complete and illustrated version, contact the author at


Early peoples were fearful of Mars given

its red color and strange path in the sky.


Early civilizations connected Mars with

war and aggression.


Roman God of War


Greek God of War

Deimos = “Panic”

Phobos = “Fear”

Moons of Mars



Roman ............. Mars

Greek ............... Ares

Babylonian ...... Nergal

Egyptian .......... Harmakhis

Scandanavian... Tyr

Norse ............... Tiu

Olde English..... Tiw

Persian.............. Pahlavani Siphir

Tiu ...... Tuesday (English)

Mars .... Mardi (French)

.... Martedi (Italian)

.... Martes (Spanish)


Mars .... March (English)

.... Mars (French)

.... Marzo (Italian)

.... Marzo (Spanish)


Some Important Mars Dates

1610 Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) points his “optic tube” at Mars; proves it is a spherical body lit by the Sun and in orbit around the Sun.

1659 ~24 hour period observed by Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695).

1672 Huygens observes white spot at south pole.

25° axial tilt identified, Herschel.

Suez Canal completed in Egypt.

Uh, so what does that have to do with Mars?


1877 Reports of “canali,” by Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1835-1910), "...laid down by rule and compass," using 8.75 inch telescope.

1894 Percival Lowell (1855-1916) builds observatory in the territory of Arizona, at Flagstaff.


1895 Mars published, Lowell.

  • 1898 War of the Worlds, Herbert George Wells (1866-1946).
  • 1906 Mars and its Canals, Lowell.
  • Mars as the Abode of Life, Lowell.
  • "That Mars is inhabited by beings of some sort of other we may consider as certain as it is uncertain what those beings may be.”~ Lowell (1906)

1903 “English schoolboy experiment.”

1910 George Ellery Hale (1868-1938), using the Mt.

Wilson 60” telescope, sees “ trace” of canals.


G. V. Schiaparelli 1877 (8.6” refractor), 1890

E. M. Antoniadi

1909 (33” refractor), 1911, 1924, 1926

Tom Ruen, Eugene Antoniadi, Lowell Hess, Roy Gallant, HST, NASA


1911 A Princess of Mars, first of eleven “John Carter of Mars” novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.


1914 Panama Canal completed.

1924 3-day “radio silence” observed; lensed sunlight reflected off Jungfraü snows.

1936 “Mars” candy bar produced.


10/30/1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast by Orson Welles. Estimates are that 1.2 million, of the 6 million, listeners thought it was real!


The Mars of ‘Lowellians’

• Mars is smaller than Earth –lower gravity –thin atmosphere –low atmospheric pressure –water leaks away to space.

• Polar caps of water ice.

• Martians are forced to move water from the poles to the arable regions at lower latitudes.

• The lack of water caused life to move out of the oceans much earlier on Mars than Earth Martians more highly evolved than Earthlings.

• They have to be smarter to cope with their global ecological catastrophe.


• They are "peaceful and contemplative, devoid of the complications and pestilences Earth's people often inflict upon themselves." R.M. Powers

• In lower gravity, Martians might be three times the height of Earthlings, 27 times as efficient, 81 times stronger.

• There are 437 canals, most very straight, some as long as 1,500 kilometers, very uniform width (~50 kilometers), some double.

• We should build signal mirrors, fires in the Sahara, messages in Siberian inform Martians that Earth too contains intelligent life.


1947 Carbon dioxide, but no oxygen, detected.

7/14/1965 Mariner 4 flies by. Images reveal an almost lunar-like landscape of craters. Radio data reveal very low atmospheric pressure, temperature and density. This ends the ‘Mars of Lowell’(and disappoints at least one six year old boy).