Gardner on Mars

Let us turn to an observation of Professor Lowell of the utmost value. On page 86 of his book, " Mars", Professor Lowell records:
" Meanwhile an interesting phenomenon occured in the cap on June 7 ( this was in 1894 ). On that morning at about a quarter to six ( or, more precisely, on June 8, 1 hour, 17 minutes, G. M. T. ), as I was watching the planet, I saw suddenly two points like stars flash out in the midst of the polar cap. Dazzlingly bright upon the duller white background of the snow, these stars shone for a few moments and then slowly disappeared. The seeing at the time was very good. It is at once evident that the other-world apparitions were-not the fabled signal lights of the Martian folk, but the glint of ice-slopes flashing for a moment earthward as the rotation of the planet turned the slope to the proper angle [ This was, of course, in his opinion! ] . . . . But though no intelligence lay behind the action of these lights they were none the less startling for being Nature's own flash-lights across one hundred million miles of space."

These star-like points had, however, been seen before, and Lowell goes on to check up his observations with those of others
“ Calculation showed the position of the star points to be in longitude 280 degrees and 290 degrees, and in latitude 76 degrees south. At this place on the planet then there was a range of slopes sufficiently tilted to reflect the sun from their ice-clad sides. On comparing its position with Green's map of his observations upon the cape of ( Maderira) in 1877, it appeared that this was the identical position of the spot where he had seen star-points then, and where Mitchell had seen them in 1846, to whom they had suggested the same conclusion. Green Christened them the `Mitchell Mountains.' At the time both these observers saw them, they were detached from the rest of the cap. We shall see that they eventually became islands, just as Green saw them, and that the observation in June marked an earlier stage in their history."

Now it is important to note in the above exactly what was seen- this is far more important to do that than to pass it over and listen to Lowell's ideas, merely, about what he saw. And the definite thing that Lowell plainly saw, and was astonished by, and specifically mentioned, was " two points like stars flash out in the midst of the polar cap."

And let us also note that Green saw, many years earlier, two spots and that Mitchell saw, as far back as 1846, something similar but with a difference- which we shall come to presently. But meanwhile let us see how inadequate is Professor Lowell's explanation of what he saw- so that we may keep distinct the actual thing and the mere theory which was made up to account for it. In the first place, Edward S. Morse, in his " Mars and its Mystery ", a book which warmly supports Lorvell's theories about life on Mars, on page 138, tells of photographs taken by Professor Pickering of the polar regions of Mars in which a vast area of white appeared around the pole in the amazingly short space of 24 hours. In that time an area nearly as large as the United States was visible as a white cap, and then it gradually disappeared.

And yet Professor Lowell asks us to believe- if this is really ice at the poles- that it is so permenent that two very steep slopes- so steep as to reflect light direct to the Earth- should keep their size and shapes and positions from 1846, when Mitchell saw them, until the present day. And we remember, also, Professor Newcomb’s explanation that there is no snow or ice at the Martian poles but only immensely fine hoar frost- which could not possibly pile up into steep cliffs and reflect light to us in the way described. 

And even Professor Lowell himself, in his other book, " Mars as the Abode of Life," admits that it would be very hard to prove that the polar caps were composed of snow or hoar-frost, and that he could not have-- to his satisfaction--- proved it if it had not been that around the polar area was to be seen a band of dark blue which he took to be water from the melting ice of the snow-cap ( page 81 ). But later on in the same book he speaks (page 140) of the well-known total disappearance of the one cap and the almost entire extinction of the other, showing how each summer melts what the winter had deposited, and that in both cases that is nearly the sum total of the cap.

But if both caps are thus depleted by each summer, how could a great ice cliff-again we ask the same question-remain since 1846 to reflect to us the light that Lowell saw?
No, there are too many contradictions there. Ice cliffs, if they formed in the polar regions of Mars, would form at so many different angles and in so many different relative positions that flashes would be constantly sent over to us. There would be a display as continuous as that of heliograph signaling. As a matter of fact, what Lowell really did see was a direct beam-two direct beams at the same moment-flashing from the central sun of Mars out through the aperature of the Martian pole-does not the blue rim around that area to which Lowell has referred indicate the optical appearance of the reflecting surface of the planet gradually curving over to the interior so that at a certain part of the curve it begins to cease reflecting the light?--and the fact that it is not seen often simply shows that it is only when Mars is in a certain position with relation to the earth that we are able to penetrate the mouth of the polar opening and catch the direct beam.


Mitchell, whom Lowell quotes in the above extract, has some very interesting points to make. He speaks of the brilliant light of the polar caps- a light more brilliant than that of the other surfaces which are supposed to be covered with ice. Then comes his description of the beam of light which we hold to come direct from the central sun of Mars:
" On the evening of the 30th of August ( 1845 ), I observed, for the first time, a small bright spot, nearly or quite round, projecting out of the lower side of the polar spot. In the early part of the evening the small bright spot seemed to be partly buried in the large one .. . . . After the lapse of an hour or more, my attention was again directed to the planet, when I was astonished to find a manifest change in the position of the small bright spot. . . .In the course of a few days the small spot gradually faded from the sight and was not seen at any subsequent observation."

It will be noticed that Lowell speaks as if what he saw was the same gleam and glint that Green saw, and the same thing that Mitchell saw. But if it were really a permanent ice-cliff, why did Lowell and Green see the two flashes and Mitchell one fash?' And why did something so permanent that both Green and Lowell saw it many years apart, why did it prove so impermanent when :Mitchell saw it? Why was it only one gleam then, and not two, and why did it fade away?

Obviously it was a gleam from the central sun of Mars that Mitchell saw, and the reason it faded was because cloudy weather gradually obscured the interior atmosphere of Mars. [ Or did internal agitation by the inner sun subside? ] And when Green and Lowell saw it a small cloud had passed over the face of the interior sun and that broke the gleam into two projecting beams with this opacity between them so that to Lowell two separated parts of the area of the Martian sun were visible and each sent its rays of light direct into his telescope. [ Or does the internal sun of Mars shine through separate openings at the poles? ]

It is very interesting to read Lowell's account of these observations and to note how his observations all fit into one another and are accurate and how his explanations fail to account really for what he sees. In this same part of his book, " Mars," he speaks of a fellow observer, Mr. Douglass, who detected " rifts " in the cap-- which sounds suspiciously as if this observer has seen clouds in the interior of the planet passing across the face of the polar opening. And Lowell adds, " On June 13 I noticed that behind the bright points the snow (he calls it) fell off shaded to this rift " which again sounds as if clouds were gathering near the bright spots. He continues:
"Bright spots continued to be seen at various points to the westward round the cap . . . . Throughout these days the cap was wont to appear shaded on the terminator side."

The last sentence surely suggests that cloud formations were coming into the field of view and that wherever they thinned the bright spots from the central sun could be seen between them.
We may note, in passing, that Proctor, the English astronomer, also refers, in his " Other Worlds than Ours," to the brightness of the polar regions although he goes not have the correct explanation of it.

That more attention should be paid to this brightness of the polar regions of Mars, is emphasized by an English astronomer, W. E. Denning, who contributed to the English scientific periodical, Nature, an article on the physical appearance of the planet from observations made in 1886. He says:
` During the past few months the north polar cap of Mars has been very bright, sometimes offering a startling contrast to those regions of the surface more feebly reflective. . . These luminous regions of Mars require at least as much careful investigation as the darker parts, for it is probably in connection with them that physical changes ( if at present operating on the planet's surface ) may be definitely observed. In many previous drawings and descriptions of Mars, sufficient weight has not been accorded to these white spots."

Earlier writers, however, had noticed that the spots were brighter than the other surfaces of Mars, an astronomer, writing in the Scientific American Supplement as early as 1879, in effect, having made that observation. But this writer was not aware of the real nature of the light. In 1892 the celebrated English astronomer, J. Norman Lockyer, repeated in a periodical a number of obeservations he had made thirty years before and had then communicated to the Royal Astronomical Society of England. Here is a significant quotation:

"The snow-zone was at times so bright that, like the crescent of the young moon, it appeared to project beyond the planet's limb. This effect of irradiation was frequently visible; on one occasion the snow spot was observed to shine like a nebulous star when the planet itself was obscured by clouds, a phenomenon noticed by Messrs. Beer and Madler, recorded in their valuable work, `Fragments sur les Corps Celestes.' The brightness, however, seemed to vary very considerably, and at times, especially when the snow zone was near its minimum, it was by no means the prominent object it generally is upon the planet's disc."

No one who reads the above in the light of our theory can fail to see how it fits into it. A snow cap would not reflect light with so much more vividness than the other surfaces of the planet, and only direct beams of light coming from a central sun could give that luminous effect above the surface of the planet and varying as the atmosphere in the interior or above it was clouded or clear. Had it been a mere ice cap there would not have been this luminosity and, in particular, there would have been no luminosity when the planet was covered with clouds as Lockyer says it was. Furthermore, that luminosity is precisely what our own aurora borealis would look like if our planet was viewed prom a great distance.
And the light is the same in both cases.


Other Pages of Interest:

Lunar Opening at Malapert   Real Mars, Hollow Mars

Pyramids   Martian Crater   Hollow Venus  

Auroras   A House on Mars 

On the Origin of Craters   Lunar Atmosphere     

Martian Atmosphere   Venusian Cusps

Martian Canals  Geo Corona

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