Pagina:Scientia - Vol. VII.djvu/265

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the “canals„ of mars 257

so strange. But little by little this controversy has passed. We now know that the «canals» vary much in their visibility, and «curiously enough, the canals are most conspicuous not at the time the planet is nearest to the earth and its general features are in consequence best seen; but as the planet goes away, the canals come out. The fact is that the orbital position and the seasonal epoch conspire to a masking of the canal phenomena». («Mars as the Abode of Life», page 167). This was the chief reason why Schiaparelli’s discoveries seemed at first to stand so entirely without corroboration; the «canals» did not become conspicuous until after most observers had desisted from following the planet. Another reason was that in 1877 Mars was low down in the sky for northern observatories, and good definition is an essential for their recognition. Nevertheless, some English astronomers had delineated a few of the easiest and most conspicuous of the «canals» in 1877, before any rumour of Schiaparelli’s work had reached England. I may mention that I had myself thus drawn the Ulyxis Fretum, the Oceanus, the Agathodaemon, the Eosphorus, the Phasis and the Eunostos.

That controversy has long ago passed away. As Mars came under observation again and again, at successive oppositions, the number of those who were able to verify Schiaparelli’s discoveries, increased, and we have long known that the great Italian astronomer was not the victim of any optical illusion; there were actual markings on the planet Mars, where he had represented them; markings which, when seen under like conditions and with equal instrumental equipment, did present the appearance of straight narrow lines. The «canals» of Mars are real markings, not imaginary ones.

The second controversy is very different from the first, and seems to have first arisen out of an unfortunate mistranslation of the term chosen by Schiaparelli to indicate these linear streaks. «Canal» in English means an artificial waterway, whilst «channel» generally means a natural one, and the idea has been very skilfully developed by Mr Lowell that the regularity of the «canals» and «oases» quite precludes their being natural formations. Hence he considers that we are shut up to the idea that Mars is inhabited by a race of engineers of superhuman intelligence and power, who

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