Two Weeks on Mars
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By the 1890s, when Mars next swung around to a really close opposition, Schiaparelli cited failing eyesight and increased growth and pollution of the city of Milan as reasons to disqualify himself from the further pursuit of the fine details of the planet's. The torch of Martian discovery passed to a new generation, including Barnard.

1892 drawings by Barnard

Barnard made some drawings of Mars in 1892, on the few nights assigned to him on the great refractor. Some of his drawings from that year show tantalizing detail. In 1894, he was assigned to the telescope two nights a week. In addition, he received other telescope time from his colleagues on the mountain, especially from his close friend, the double-star observer Sherburne W. Burnham, in order to push ahead with his engrossing studies of Mars.

That same summer of 1894, another American astronomer, Percival Lowell, was in Arizona, less than a thousand miles away, using another large telescope to map the planet. A Boston Brahmin, son of a wealthy industrialist, Lowell had graduated from Harvard the year before Schiaparelli's discovery of the canals, and then spent a few years managing trusts, electric companies, and textile mills; until, at thirty, becoming bored with business and weary of the lingering repressive Puritanism of Boston society, he broke off a half-hearted engagement to a woman from another well-connected family and headed off for the Far East, where he spent a decade in travel and literary activity. When Barnard was observing Mars from Mt. Hamilton in 1892, Lowell was still living in Tokyo.

After returning to Boston in 1893, Lowell - at Christmas -- received as a present the French astronomy-writer Camille Flammarion's massive compendium of Mars observations, La Planete Mars. Lowell immediately went ga ga for Mars. He arranged an impromptu meeting with Harvard astronomer William H. Pickering, back from observing Mars in the Andes of Peru. Pickering helped Lowell borrow a pair of telescopes and agreed to serve as advisor on a Mars observing expedition "out west." The site rather hastily chosen was Flagstaff, Arizona, on a 7000 foot high mesa on the Coconino Plateau.

By June 1894, with Mars still more than four months from opposition, Pickering slapped together for Lowell a prefabricated dome on "Mars's Hill," just outside the pioneer railroad town of Flagstaff. Relations between the two men became strained - Pickering had always been very much an underling to his powerful and domineering brother, Edward Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory, and did not relish the idea of remaining in a subordinate role to another domineering elder-brother type. The two men parted ways at the end of the observing season. Eventually Pickering settled in Jamaica, where as an elder statesman of planetary astronomy he later tutored young Walter Haas, the founder of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers and now eighty-six. This past summer one of us (W.S.) met Haas. In the spirit of the ditty, "I danced with a man, who danced with a woman, who danced with the Prince of Wales," he reflected on the circumstance of "talking with a man who had talked with a man who was present at the founding of the Lowell Observatory!" We are not that far-removed in time from the pioneering days of planetary astronomy.

Percival Lowell

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