“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s.” H. G. Wells.
In 1898, H. G. Wells wrote what was to become known by many as the best science fiction novel ever written. The book, which has never been out of print in its one-hundred and twenty-three year history is a story of Martians invading an unsuspecting earth using unstoppable machines and weapons, a concept which at the time was not possible on earth during the Victorian age. The book, called “War Of The Worlds'' caught the imagination of the public like no other novel at the time and had been inspired by a number of incredible discoveries on the red planet by astronomers of the era. Mars at the time of the book’s release had been on many astronomers' radar going back almost fifty years 50 years after strange anomalies had been reported or recorded on the red planet from the ‘1850s to the beginning of the twentieth century.
Scientists have long believed that the Red Planet was once warm and wet like our planet but during the late ‘1800s, Mars appeared to lose most of the majority of its water to outer space. The problem is, how could this have happened in such a relatively short time?
Our story begins during the mid ‘1800s when esteemed astronomers of that period (with the aid of better equipment) began noticing strange anomalies appearing on the surface of Mars. The astronomers had begun to notice Canalis, or Canals. These canals were first recorded in 1858 by Rev Secchi, an Italian scholar who won the Légion d'honneur, France, and Giovanni Schiaparelli another Italian who’s name will be forever associated with Mars after his discovery of the so-called Martian canals.
Many astronomers at the time, through their own studies verified these canals and also noted obvious “seasonal” changes on the surface of Mars which corresponded with melting of the Martian polar ice caps. (the canals would later be dismissed by NASA but not the changes on the Mars surface). In 1888, however, Henry Perrotin, a French astronomer and director of the Observatory of Nice, recorded dramatic changes in an area of Mars named Libya Montes, which was assumed to be a continental land mass. Clearly visible in 1886, Perrotin claimed it wasn’t visible anymore in 1888. According to the Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy and Spaceflight, during the summer of 1888 Perrotin reported seeing “bright projections” on three separate occasions; afterward, Libya Montes, according to Perrotin, was never again visible.
A year later, Percival Lowell, the famous American Astronomer and Mathematician, who championed the theory that intelligent inhabitants on Mars had constructed a planet-wide system of irrigation, canals, or canalis, utilising water from the then visible polar ice caps-the same canals witnessed earlier by Rev Secchi, and Giovanni Schiaparelli, witnessed and recorded something very strange on the Mars surface. Lowell recorded a 300 mile long yellowish, brown cloud and also noted that the temperature of the surface of Mars at that time averaged an incredibly mild, 48F, (9 deg C). That temperature recorded by Lowell was later confirmed by the Russian Mars Lander 3 nearly a 100 years later. Mars Lander 3 went on to record temperatures of -93 deg C to an incredible 13 deg C, (-135F to 55F). According to NASA the temperature on Mars now is about -80 degrees Fahrenheit, (-60 degrees Celsius.) During a Mars winter, temperatures can get down to -195 degrees F (-125 degrees C) near the poles. Mars is now much colder and “dryer'' and reports from the landing missions confirm the temperature is constantly cooling. By 1909 no signs of the famous canalis, or canals first recorded in 1858 by Rev Secchi and Giovanni Schiaparelli could be spotted anymore on the surface of Mars.
With the advent of WWI, Spanish flu, the Great Depression and WWII, not to mention the Cold-War, the interest in Mars, not surprisingly waned. However, in 1954, focus on Mars and its canals was reborn. The National Geographic decided to sponsor a Mars observation project at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, in Bloemfontein, South Africa. In September, 1955 after Dr. E. C. Slipher, who had spent most of his professional life photographing Mars had taken 20,000 pictures of the surface of the red planet, the National Geographic issued a statement claiming the appearance of a large dark spot photographed on the surface of Mars supported the conclusion that: “Mars is not a dead world, that the darkening, photographed on the surface is due to the growth of plant plantlife.” Although the news was a smash hit with the world-press at the time, some of Dr. Siphers peers said his finding should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The large spot photographed by Dr Sipher for National Geographic showing seasonal changes on the surface of Mars
The famous pictures which had caused all the excitement showed certain areas of the Mars surface as a green-blue, with a seasonal change, along with polar caps shrinking and expanding, which many prestigious astronomers had indeed noted during the second half of the ‘1800s, such as Rev Secchi, Giovanni Schiaparelli, Henry Perrotin and Percival Lowell. The debate proved to be short lived, however, when in 1956 a planet wide dust storm made any further observations on the surface of Mars impossible.
But the most striking and surprising discovery on Mars was still yet to come. By 1956, Mars had been photographed thousands of times throughout history not to mention scrutinised by hundreds of top astronomers and studied by experts, but no one had ever mentioned the most striking of all features on the surface of Mars! Had it even existed earlier? It would not be discovered until 15 years later in 1971!
According to Wikipedia, at more than 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long, 200 km (120 mi) wide and up to 7 km (23,000 Ft) deep, Valles Marineris is one of the largest canyons of the Solar System, surpassed in length only by the rift valleys of Earth. Valles Marineris is located along the equator of Mars, on the east side of the Tharsis Bulge, and stretches for nearly a “quarter of the planet's circumference.” The canyon is unmissable, however, for more than a hundred years thousands of photos and observations, no one knew of its existence until 1971, how on earth is that possible, pardon the pun?
There was, as I mentioned earlier, a planet size dust storm on the surface of Mars in 1956, another one occurred in 1971. At the time, Mariner 9, a robotic spacecraft, had reached Mars on November 14, 1971, its project was to map the Martian surface from a distance of 1500 km, (930 miles), however, because of the dust storm Mariner 9 was instructed to wait for better conditions. Historically, Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet but on its Mars arrival, scientists witnessed the biggest planet sized dust storm they had ever seen. Mariner ‘9s computer was programmed from earth and made to wait for the dust to settle. When the dust did settle the largest canyon in our solar system appeared-as if from nowhere.
With much inferior equipment than NASA, canals had been viewed, seasonal changes recorded, surface anomalies photographed, but the biggest canyon in our solar system had been missed not just from thousands of astronomers but also NASA and the Russions? Other data from Marina 9 showed only a barren dry cold planet. Mars, from appearing to show seasonal changes, vegetation and canals from the ‘1850s to early ‘1900s suddenly resembled a devastated planet.
How could they have missed the massive Valles Marineris?
How could NASA, the Russians and astronomers miss the massive Valles Marineris on the surface of Mars, see pic? The simple answer is they couldn’t NASA’s now famous image showing the massive Valles Marineris on the surface of Mars was actually formed in 1971 under the “dust storm” of that there can be no doubt!
Since the mid ‘1800s strange flashes have been seen on the Mars surface by numerous astronomers. Dust storms have become a regular phenomenon, it is worth noting, planet size dust storms are without doubt the signature of a barren dry devastated world which contradicts what the earlier astronomers recorded on Mars, are the dust storms the result of a nuclear fallout?
Below is the now famous NASA image showing the biggest canyon in the solar system. The massive Valles Marineris, 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long, 200 km (120 mi) wide and up to 7 km (23,000 ft) deep.
John E. Brandenburg, a plasma physicist, caused a stir in 2011 when he published his findings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference after studying data from the 2001 Mars Odyssey Orbiter. Mr Brandenburg claimed he had found a concentration of radioactive uranium, thorium and potassium in two specific areas on Mars. He originally came up with the idea that he had discovered a “natural nuclear reactor,” after one had been discovered in 1972 in Gabon, Africa. However, he changed his prognosis, however, after he found the elevated ratio of 129 Xenon to 132 Xenon suggested the signature of a nuclear weapon explosion. In December 2014 he also went on to write: Vitrified soil, etched with acid, has been found at the sites of both hypothetical explosions, but nowhere else on Mars. This mineral resembles "trinitite", the melt glass found at the site of nuclear explosions. Mr Brandenburg’s submissions were never accepted by peer-reviewed journals.
Melted iron spheres on the surface of Mars. Just how were these spheres created?
Credit, Mars Exploration Rover Mission Credit Indian Space Research Organization.
In October 2014, a huge mushroom cloud was allegedly captured by India’s Mars Orbiter Mission with people claiming at the time to be proof of a huge nuclear explosion which NASA dismissed. The images, allegedly captured by the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) Mars Colour Camera (MCC), were posted to the website of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Above is a picture from NASA's website, Astronomy Picture Of The Day, which is showing two sets of images from the surface of Mars. The two on the right are a digitally re-scaled version of a map originally prepared by Eugine Antoniadi, a prominant astronomer of the 1800s showing a canal like system and seasonal vegetation on the surface of Mars. Other prominant astronomers including Percival Lowell also claimed to have witnessed the extensive system of canals on Mars.
The two images on the left are Hubble telescope photos from 2003 showing an extensive system of canals clearly does not exist on the surface of Mars, however, the Hubble telescope pictures taken in 2003 are images of the red planet after several planetwide dust storms. Even the massive Valles Marineris, the 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long, 200 km (120 mi) wide and 7 km (23,000 ft) deep canyon is not visible?
Although none of the data above proves anything, there does appear to be a distinct change in the appearance of what nineteenth century astronomers witnessed on the surface of Mars and what modern technology has discovered. Did Mars go from surface and seasonal changes to utter devastation in just over a hundred years? I guess we will never know.