The Planet Mars:
A History of Observation and Discovery

By William Sheehan

The University of Arizona Press, Tucson

Copyright © 1996
The Arizona Board of Regents
All rights reserved. No part of this on-line book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the University of Arizona Press.

This book is printed on acid-free, archival-quality paper.
Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

British Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

To Brendan and Ryan
and the Martians of the next generation


List of Figures
Chapter 1Motions of Mars
Chapter 2Pioneers
Chapter 3"A Situation Similar to Ours"
Chapter 4Areographers
Chapter 51877
Chapter 6Confirmations and Controversies
Chapter 7Lowell
Chapter 8How the Eye Interprets
Chapter 9Opposition 1909
Chapter 10The Lingering Romance
Chapter 11Spacecraft to Mars
Chapter 12Mariner 9
Chapter 13Vikings---and Beyond
Chapter 14The Hurtling Moons of Mars
Chapter 15Observing Mars
Appendix 1.Oppositions of Mars, 1901--2035
Appendix 2.Perihelic Oppositions of Mars, 1608--2035
Appendix 3.Table of Data for the Planet Mars
Appendix 4.The Satellites of Mars
Selected Bibliography


1Christiaan Huygens.
2Giovanni Domenico Cassini.
3Specimens of Schroeter's original drawings of Mars.
4Asaph Hall.
5Nathaniel Green's 1877 map.
6Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli.
7The 8.6-inch Merz refractor of the Brera Observatory.
8Schiaparelli's 1877 map.
9Pages from Schiaparelli's observing notebook, 1879.
10Drawing of Mars by James E. Keeler, 1890.
11Camille Flammarion with a 9-inch Bardou refractor.
12Percival Lowell.
13W. W. Campbell with a 36-inch spectroscope.
14Edward Walter Maunder.
15E. M. Antoniadi.
16British Astronomical Association map of Mars, 1896.
17The Meudon Observatory near Paris.
18Drawing of Mars by E. M. Antoniadi, 1909.
19Antoniadi's master map of Mars.
20A spacecraft view of Mars created from Viking orbiter images.
21CCD images of the rotation of Mars, 1995.
22A map of Mars based on Mariner 9 spacecraft images, 1971--72.


A century ago, at the height of what might be referred to as the "canal furor," Camille Flammarion published the first volume of his great work, La Plančte Mars, which summarized what was then known about the planet. In his preface he described how he hesitated between two methods of presenting the state of Martian knowledge---in special chapters dealing with topics such as continents, seas, polar caps, and so on; or chronologically, in the order in which the facts had been obtained. He at length decided on the latter approach, "mainly," he wrote, "because it seemed to me to be the more interesting . . . and also because it provides a better account of the gradual development of our knowledge." So it has seemed to me, and I have done likewise. What follows, then, is a history of Martian exploration from the earliest stirrings of human curiosity about the planet right up to the present time when, after a lull of twenty years and after suffering through the disappointments of the Russian Phobos and American Mars Observer missions, we stand again poised on the verge of a more vigorous phase of exploration of the planet.

I must here acknowledge the help I have had in preparing this volume. Dr. Richard McKim, director of the Mars Section of the British Astronomical Association, and Thomas Dobbins were generous in giving of their valuable time to read through the manuscript, and they made many helpful comments. So did two anonymous reviewers for the University of Arizona Press. Dr. Patrick Moore very kindly put at my disposal one of only four existing copies of his English translation of Flammarion's La Plančte Mars, which has been indispensable, and granted me permission to quote from it and from his earlier translations of the works of E. M. Antoniadi. Drs. Audouin Dollfus and Henri Camichel provided much information about their own studies of Mars as well as about the work of other French pioneers---these were men who received the torch of the great Antoniadi. For help in tracking down material on G. V. Schiaparelli, I am grateful to Signor Luigi Prestinenza; and for permission to use material from the Schiaparelli Archives, my thanks to Professor Guido Chincarini, director of the Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera. Dieter Gerdes, curator of the Heimatverein Lilienthal, was a valuable source of information about J. H. Schroeter. The help of Michael Sims of the Special Collections of Vanderbilt University Archives, Dorothy Schaumberg of the Mary Lea Shane Archives of the Lick Observatory, and Judith Lola Bausch and Richard Dreiser of the Yerkes Observatory is acknowledged. Though my interest in Mars began in my early youth (as has been the case for so many who have been fired with enthusiasm about the planet), my scholarly habits were greatly stimulated by my visit to Lowell Observatory in 1982. I owe much to the encouragement of the late William Graves Hoyt, historian, whose own researches on Percival Lowell resonate in this volume, and Arthur Hoag, director of the Lowell Observatory. Michael J. Crowe, of the University of Notre Dame, also encouraged my research at an early stage. A number of astronomers shared their observations and observing lore related to the red planet, especially Tom Cave, Tom Dobbins, Rodger Gordon, Walter Haas, Harold Hill, and Alan Lenham. Barry Di Gregorio scouted out information regarding the future spacecraft missions. Finally, I am grateful to Richard Baum for his inspiration over many years, and to my wife, Deborah, for helping me in more ways than I can name.

William Sheehan
Hutchinson, Minnesota
June 1995

© 1996 The Arizona Board of Regents

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