Lowell's Legacy

Regarding the "effects of local intelligence" and possible cultural artifacts on the planet Mars.

"A Twenty First Century Perspective on a 19th Century Vision..."

A Johnny Danger Tome...with contributions by Percival Lowell


In the latter part of the 19th century a visionary scientist and researcher predicted "it probable that upon the surface of Mars we see the effects of local intelligence." Percival Lowell postulated just such an idea in his book "Mars", published in 1895. Lowell dedicated years studying Mars in great detail from a ground based telescope.

Lowell believed that Schiaparelli's "canali", a term used by the Italian astronomer two decades earlier to describe apparent "geometric grooves" he observed on Mars during favorable viewing conditions were indeed just that, conduits for water circulation on an arid world.

A passionate and eloquent orator, Lowell lectured to thousands on the possibility of life on Mars and fired the imagination of the public with discussions of alien life. He packed theater houses in Europe and America, engendering a heated debate in the European press over his interpretations of the Martian "canali" amongst his astronomical peers. The scion of two wealthy families, Percival Lowell could afford to indulge his ideas. His legacy has influenced authors from H.G. Wells to Ray Bradbury to Kim Stanley Robinson. He was indirectly responsible for scores of "B" movies (most of which I have seen).

But this treatise is not about the man, Percival Lowell, but his vision of Mars, through which Lowell's influence permeates our culture. The culture I was born into, one weaned on Star Trek, Star Wars, ET, Aliens and the X-Files, owes a great deal of it's fascination with the possibility that we are not alone in the universe to Percival Lowell. The entire genre of modern science fiction has it's roots in Lowell's musings and elocutions on his research. Edgar Rice Burroughs', "John Carter and the Great Green Men of Mars" (Four Arms and Tails) as well as the Red Men of Mars (much more like us) are inspirations born of Lowell's legacy along with over a century of pulp fiction, sci-fi novels and convention halls brimming with Trekkies.

Time, technology and an eventual extended human presence on Mars may well confirm him as an intuitive visionary.

Our initial interest in the historical perspective of Mars observation (and Lowell in particular) began after several years of research and discourse on possible alien cultural artifacts being imaged by the Mars Global Surveyor in the late 1990's. Of particular interest was one image showing a triumvirate of immense, seemingly translucent "glass tunnels" diving beneath the surface of Mars, an apparent junction or interchange undeniably Lowellian in nature. Looking for details about Lowell's "canals" seemed an appropriate venue. It has proven interesting.

As we began to research Lowell, we realized how woefully underinformed we were. Lowell, as influential as he has proven, was first influenced by others (duh)! Prior to Lowell's observation noted astronomers such as Secchi, Kaiser, Lockyear, Pratt, Dawes, Greene, Schroeter and Schiaparelli all drew faint markings that were obvious precursors to Lowell's canals.

It is interesting that the generally referenced educational tomes fail to mention the fact that numerous observers documented the "Martian Canals" prior to the time of Lowell. Knowing a little about optics, we fully realize that most of the scientific telescopes of the 1880's are for the most part far superior to the most expensive brand name recreational scopes we use in our backyard. Utilizing this state of the art equipment, men like Schiaparelli and Lowell observed and hypothesized on numerous astronomical issues.

The bulk of their observations and subsequent theorizing comprises the basic astronomical tenants still taught today. Yet while studying Mars with this same technology, these individuals were, according to most sources, wildly speculative and lacking in scientific method with regards to the issue of the Martian "canals". Their other research is cited as credible, however they all somehow erred on this particular subject. Simply that these canals cannot be seen today does not preclude that they did not exist and were visible on Mars during the nineteenth century.


Percival Lowell at the Lowell Observatory
Image courtesy of Percival Lowell

This makes one ponder what these educated, meticulous observers, armed with state of the art equipment observed on the surface of Mars. Obviously they weren't all making this up. Neither were they embarked on some far flung group consciousness experiment or any attempt to defraud the public or their fellow academicians.

Perhaps what they documented over some decades was a process unfolding upon the surface of Mars. Possibly some long winded, seasonal fruition that occurs on our sister planet after some extended number of cycles around the solar system. A warm Martian zephyr that caresses the red planet after a relatively short number of rotations when viewed on a cosmic scale, allowing Mars to burst into hues of green, blue and red. Schiaparelli would have liked this idea.

We know from data collected over the past few years (just a snippet on a cosmic scale) of Mars observation that the surface changes seasonally like our own Earths, but really still don't understand all that much about Martian planetary processes because we simply haven't had time to collect substantial data on them. Perhaps the old gal holds some curious surprises for us.

MGS data shows that the Martian polar ice caps have shrunk significantly since 1997, subliming CO2 into the Martian atmosphere, raising atmospheric pressures and temperatures on the Red planet. Lowell recorded details of the southern polar cap shrinking in 1894 that bear remarkable similarity to what we currently see happening in that region. He postulated that he was seeing carbon dioxide subliming away into the atmosphere, a theory which is still in use today.

Lowell Plate II-Martian Southern Polar Cap (1895)

This provides an excellent insight into the nature and quality of the research done by early astronomers. These were not individuals taken to flights of fancy. They were serious researchers who documented a planetary process which took place on Mars during the nineteenth century. Simply because we see no indications of this occurring today does not necessarily invalidate their data. Ironically, we are taught to accept Lowell's theories on the polar caps while dismissing his studies in other areas of Mars. The data was obviously collected with the same technology, yet one set of observations is considered scientifically valid while other observations made under similar conditions are taught to be scientific hooey. This seems somewhat duplicitous, to say the least.

Reviewing early research might even reveal clues to our contemporary Mars. Back to the early 19th century, as telescopes became more sophisticated, astronomers wished to know if they could resolve the surface and atmosphere of another planet, namely Mars.

In 1877 Giovanni Schiaparelli used an 8.6-inch Merz refractor to observe and document Mars at opposition. Schiaparelli's meticulous observations prompted him to produce detailed new maps of Mars replete with romantic sounding names like Herculis Columnae (Columns of Hercules) ,Mare Sirenum (Sea of Sirens), Mare Cimmerium (Sea of the Cimmerians), Mare Tyrrhenum (Tyrrhenian Sea), Mare Hadriaticum (Adriatic Sea), Syrtis Major (Gulf of Sidra). The seas he paired against bright areas were named for dry lands. There was Ausonia (Italy),separated from Libya by the Tyrrhenian Sea, and other domains included Hellas (Greece), Aeria, Arabia, Eden, Chryse, Tharsis, Cydonia and Elysium, nomenclature that had roots in Schiaparelli's intimate of classical literature.

Here is a typical reference to Schiaparelli- found in an on-line database at KCLS.org:

"Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio Pronounced As: jovŠnn vrjnyo skyŠpŠrell , 1835-1910, Italian astronomer. He was director (1862-1900) of the Brera Observatory, Milan. He is especially noted for having detected (1877) on the surface of the planet Mars the markings that he called "canali" (channels), later misinterpreted as "canals. He showed that meteor swarms travel through space in cometary orbits and suggested that Mercury and Venus rotate on their axes. He discovered the asteroid Hesperia (1861) and several double stars. "

This is what initially peaked my curiosity. Everything one reads about Schiaparelli and his predecessors states that the whole thing was some mistake or mistranslation. This proved not to be the case at all! History unfortunately is determined by those who write the history books . Modern researchers have relegated the observations of nineteenth century astronomers to obscurity by simple omission of their opinions.

During the 1877 opposition, Schiaparelli produced detailed maps documenting his observations of the Martian surface. He recorded that he saw the "canali" of Mars and the surrounding areas grow and change over the period of his observations. He coined the phenomenon "Gemination" and considered it a purely natural process, postulating that he was observing large seasonal swaths of vegetation directly adjacent to the banks of a gargantuan waterway in his lens, rather than the "canali" itself.


Lowell provides some contemporary historical perspective on Schiaparelli's observations:

"The first hint the world had of their existence was when Schiaparelli saw some of the lines in 1877, now eighteen years ago. The world, however, was anything but prepared for the revelation, and, when he announced what he had seen, promptly proceeded to disbelieve him. Schiaparelli had the misfortune to be ahead of his times, and the yet greater misfortune to remain so; for not only did no one else see the lines at that opposition, but no one else succeeded in doing so at subsequent ones. For many years fate allowed Schiaparelli to have them all to himself, a confidence he amply repaid. While other's doubted, he went from discovery to discovery. What he had seen in 1877 was not so very startling in view of what he afterward saw. His first observations might well have been of simple estuaries, long natural creeks running up into the continents, and even cutting them in two. His later observations were too peculiar to be explained, even by so improbable a configuration of the Martian surface. In 1879 the canali, as he called them (channels, or canals, the word may be translated, and it is in the latter sense that he now regards them), showed straighter and narrower than they had in 1877: this not in consequence of any change in them, but from his own improved faculty of detection; for what the eye has once seen it can always see better a second time. As he gazed they appeared straighter, and he made out more. Lastly, toward the end of the year, he observed one evening what struck even him as a most startling phenomenon,-- the twinning of one of the canals: two parallel canals suddenly showed where but a single one had showed before. The paralleling was so perfect that he suspected optical illusion. He could, however, discover none by changing his telescopes or eye-pieces. The phenomenon, apparently, was real.

At the next opposition he looked to see if by chance he should mark a repetition of the strange event, and went, as he tells us, from surprise to surprise; for one after another of his canals proceeded startlingly to become two, until some twenty of them had thus doubled. This capped the climax to his own wonderment, and, it is needless to add, to other people's incredulity; for nobody else had yet succeeded in seeing the canals at all, let alone seeing them double. Undeterred by the general skepticism, he confirmed at each fresh opposition his previous discoveries, which, in view of the fact that no one else did, tended in astronomical circles to an opposite result. For nine years he labored thus alone, having his visions all to himself. It was not till 1886 that any one but he saw the canals. In April of that year Perrotin, at Nice, first did so. The occasion was the setting up of the great Nice glass of twenty-nine inches aperture. In spite of the great size of the glass, however, a first attempt resulted in nothing but failure. So, later, did a second, and Perrotin was on the point of abandoning the search for good, when, on the 15th of the month, he suddenly detected one of the canals, the Phison. His assistant, M. Thollon, saw it immediately afterward. After this they managed to make out several others, some single, some double, substantially as Schiaparelli had drawn them; the slight discrepancies between their observations and his being in point of fact the best of confirmations.

It is interesting to recall, in connection with this incredulity about the canals, that precisely the same thing happened in the case of the discovery of Jupiter's satellites and with Huyghens' explanation of Saturn's ring. We are apt to imagine that our age of the world has a monopoly of skepticism. But this is a mistake. The spirit that denies has always been abroad; only in early days he was reputed to be the devil. "

-Percival Lowell

A similar situation exists today in print and electronic media in regards to the possibility of possible cultural artifacts on Mars. Ironically, over one hundred years later we are still debating the same issues as Schiaparelli and Lowell. Images from Mars show what appear to many as artifacts of intelligent design, possibly eons old, dotting the Martian landscape.

Common knowledge would have it that the eccentric Lowell alone saw canals on Mars and speculated wildly on the subject. He even built his own observatory in the mountains of Arizona. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These canals or streaks were seen by dozens of researchers over a period of decades. The earliest reported seeing only faint markings. They documented changes in them for succeeding Mars oppositions, noting the growth of some and the disappearance of others. They numbered and named them.

The term "canali" was first reportedly used the director of the Roman Observatory and Jesuit priest, Pietro Secchi in 1859. When Schiaparelli first announced his observations in 1877 the astronomy community had been skeptical. Some notable astronomers stated that they had never seen these markings and thought them an optical illusion. However Schaiparelli's reputation as a keen observer and theorist was virtually unimpeachable (he also had a better telescope than they did) so it was up to his peers to verify his observations rather than refute them. Schiaparelli was also known to have referred to the stripes as "fiumi", which is Italian for "river", which favored his theory of "gemination" and the notion that the remarkable differences in coloration were due to immense swaths of vegetation.

French astronomer Camille Flammarion's Mars observations in the early 1880's prompted him to write his book "Les Terres du Ciel" in 1884 . Flammarion was the first noted astronomer to proselytize the idea that the stripes were the result of intelligent beings as was influential in helping to form Lowell's opinions. It follows that Lowell was much more passionate in his elocutions as he is the one generally credited with regards to artificial constructs on Mars.

Flammarion's canali (1884)

In 1886 the stripes were reported by Perrotin and Thollon at the the Nice Observatory in France as well as by Wilson in Cincinnati at the Mount Lookout Observatory. Mt. Lookout is home to the oldest operating telescope in the United States. Open to the public, one can still visit there and view Mars through the very same piece of equipment used by Wilson to verify Schiaparelli's research. Alas, no "canali" are today visible on Mars with that very same telescope. As the telescope hasn't changed it would seem an obvious conclusion that Mars has..

In 1888 William Pickering postulates that the canals are "glacial crevasses" and the coloration due to vegetation. Pickering's brother in law, the director of the observatory, at which Pickering was employed, eventually fires Pickering for his wild speculations on Mars. Pickering is subsequently hired by Lowell, who sent him packing to a 7200 feet high mountaintop in Arizona. He was equipped with a brand new state of the art 30 foot telescope with stacked 24 inch lenses to found the first high altitude modern observatory on the spot that came to be known as Mars hill. Lowell paid $20,000 dollars for the scope, about $7 million in today's dollars. Lowell's telescope is today still available for public viewing as part of a public outreach program.

By this time a large enough portion of the astronomy community had determined that the "canali" were a real phenomenon and not some optical illusion. The real debate was over the nature of the markings and their origin, be it natural or artificial.

During the thirty odd years from Secchi to Lowell the technology and methodology of planetary astronomy increased at a steady pace. Lowell, a man of intuition and vision, a scientific philosopher of sorts, assumed that Schiaparelli's basic tenants about life on Mars were sound and passionately took the theory to it's next logical conclusion. If there was life, then most likely there were also higher life forms and possibly intelligent beings. It was with this mindset he began his studies of Mars. He actively studied Mars in search of signs indicative of intelligent beings. It is unfortunate that so few of the learned members of the American taxpayers government funded planetary science community lack Lowell's passion for planetary SETI pursuits.

To this author it seems highly unlikely that the bulk of the late 19th century astronomy community suffered from some collective hallucination with regards to the "stripes" seen on Mars. They spent the two decades prior to Lowell's entry into the field changing lenses to determine if this was an optical illusion or the result of eye strain from overwork. Eventually they came to believe their eyes. The simple fact that early researchers located on different continents drew similar maps without communicating with each other also tends to dispute the eyestrain scenario.

A far more likely theory than hallucination is that they observed manifestations of the contemporary climatic conditions on Mars during this period. Long winded seasonal variations in the appearance of Mars. The equipment in use at the time was capable of resolving the surface adequately to observe any markedly overt features. There is little doubt that our Martian cousins could have resolved the oceans and continents of Earth if they'd had Lowell's new telescope perched on Olympus Mons. Thus it seems reasonable that what these fellows all saw at different times and locations was an actual occurrence visible on Mars during their lifetimes.

What did these early researchers witness on Mars for over half a century, coming into focus every two cycles at opposition? If not the result of intelligent intervention as Lowell suggested, then perhaps some period of rapid climatological change unknown to the last thirty years of robotic observations from Mars. The desiccated Mars of Carl Sagan's science has little room for such untainted theories with regards to Mars.

Late in his life Schiaparelli was said to have had a change of heart and went as far as to discuss Lowell's ideas of artificiality openly, considering the intelligent design theory possible. Fanciful speculation on the subject of Mars, while wildly popular with the public, was decidedly unpopular with academia of the era, an interesting historical insight analogous to the current scientific/political climate that surrounds Mars exploration and disclosure. After making this revelation Schiaparelli was vilified by some academicians and the European press ran numerous articles on the debate. It becomes apparent that the situation hasn't really changed much as modern researchers, who believe they see indications of intelligent intervention on Mars, receive pretty much the same treatment by academia and little credit from the press for the solid body of research they have produced.

It was Schiaparelli's Mars which Percival Lowell inherited in the 1890's. Schiaparelli believed there was life on Mars based on the data he had available and his contemporary knowledge of science. He was able to make what to him seemed like a common sense leap of faith. His theory of gemination was linked inextricably to water as were Lowell's theories.

Lowell's protégé' Eugene Antonaudi, once an ardent supporter of the intelligent design theory, tracked and documented the canals until well into the twentieth century. But after the 1894 they dimmed with each passing opposition until vanishing into nothingness. After he was no longer able to resolve these features Antonaudi dismissed these features as imaginary and washed his hands of the issue after decades of debate.

Either learned scholar, Percival or Giovanni may still win bragging rights to Mars. Both could still have their theories validated over the coming century of Mars observations. These individuals all saw something real happening on Mars. As to the nature of their observations there is no way to model or research them short of taking a trip with Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine. We must simply have faith in the veracity of their observations. The only avenue available to the modern researcher is to compare modern spacecraft data to early Mars renderings and look for correlations between the overlain datasets and the occurrence of the "glass tunnel" anomalies along with other surface artifacts in images. This seemed a prudent course of action and eventually set the tone for this entire piece. It's been a very interesting process with some startling revelations.

Perhaps it's time we revisit Lowell's Legacy and give his words a fair hearing.

His thoughts are those of a lucid individual with a analytical mind and wonderful imagination. One thing is certain, the cold dry Mars that we were taught about is bunk. Scientific hooey propagated to secure funding for robotic missions instead of manned exploration in an era budgetary chaos. Planetary science has been hijacked by geologists and robotics professionals for the last thirty years. Any signs of life on Mars are downplayed as it would provide the impetus for a manned Mars mission. Manned space programs are historically far more expensive than robotic missions and such an undertaking would move the bulk of funding from Pasdadena (JPL) to Johnson Space Center in Texas. The sad reality is if the U.S. manned space program doesn't get a new direction (Mars) soon, we as a country will eventually fall behind others as a leader in space exploration.

Only your voice and support will rectify this travesty of science. Be proactive!. Support organizations like FACETS (Formal Action Committee for Extraterrestrial Studies), SPSR (Scientists for Planetary SETI Research) and (Richard Hoagland's) The Enterprise Mission. Write your congressmen. Get involved. Do your own research if you find the work of others somewhat lacking of insight. Every man owns a publishing house in these digital days. Your participation (especially you taxpayers), like that of Lowell, Schiaparelli and countless others will help to foster a better understanding of the universe we live in.



Lowell's Legacy- Part one - The Martian Obsession

"Once in about every fifteen years a startling visitant makes his appearance upon our midnight skies,-- a great red star that rises at sunset through the haze about the eastern horizon, and then, mounting higher with the deepening night, blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself. Startling for its size, the stranger looks the more fateful for being a fiery red. Small wonder that by many folk it is taken for a portent. Certainly, no one who had not followed in their courses what the Greeks so picturesquely called "the wanderers" (hoi planetai) would recognize in the apparition an orderly member of our own solar family. Nevertheless, one of the wanderers it is, for that star is the planet Mars, large because for the moment near, having in due course again been overtaken by the Earth, in her swifter circling about the Sun, at that point in space where his orbit and hers make their closest approach.

Although the apparent new-comer is neither new nor intrinsically great, he possesses for us an interest out of all proportion to his size or his relative importance in the universe; and this for two reasons : first, because he is of our own cosmic kin; and secondly, because no other heavenly body, Venus and the Moon alone excepted, ever approaches us so near. What is more, we see him at such times better than we ever do Venus, for the latter, contrary to what her name might lead one to expect, keeps her self so constantly cloaked in cloud that we are permitted only the most meagre peeps at her actual surface; while Mars, on the other hand, lets us see him as he is, no cloud-veil of his, as a rule, hiding him from view. He thus offers us opportunities for study at closer range than does any other body in the universe except the Moon. And the Moon balks inquiry at the outset. For that body, from which we might hope to learn much, appears upon inspection to be, cosmically speaking, dead. Upon her silent surface next to nothing now takes place save for the possible crumbling in of a crater wall.

For all practical purposes Mars is our nearest neighbor in space. Of all the orbs about us, therefore, he holds out most promise of response to that question which man instinctively makes as he gazes up at the stars: What goes on upon all those distant globes? Are they worlds, or are they mere masses of matter? Are physical forces alone at work there, or has evolution begotten something more complex, something not unakin to what we know on Earth as life? It is in this that lies the peculiar interest of Mars.

That we are in some wise kin to all the rest of the cosmos, science has been steadily demonstrating more and more clearly. The essential oneness of the universe is the goal to which all learning tends. Just as Newton proved all the planets to obey a common force, the Sun; just as Laplace showed it to be probable that we were all evolved from one and the same primal nebula; so more recently the spectroscope has revealed unsuspected relationship betwixt us and the stars. Matter turns out to be but common property; and the very same substances with which we are so familiar on the Earth, iron, magnesium, sodium, and so forth, prove present on those far-off suns that strew the depths of space. Only in detail does everything differ. So much for matter.

As for that manifestation of it known as mind, modesty, if not intelligence, forbids the thought that we are sole thinkers in all we see. Indeed, we seldom stop in our locally engrossing pursuits to realize how small the part we play in the universal drama. Probable, however, as extra-terrestrial life in general is, it is another matter to predicate it in any particular case. Nevertheless, if it exist it must exist somewhere, and the first place to scan is the place we can scan best."

-Percival Lowell

And we've been scanning ever since. Lowell's writings verify that he was a man well ahead of his time! Precociously informing the public on the virtues of "spectroscope" data and it's relationship to planetary science research way back in 1895! He sounds like a well grounded, methodical researcher in tune with current trends.

Our scans-recent data acquisitions by the Mars Odyssey (Gamma Ray Spectrometer) and Mars Global Surveyor (Imaging) probes indicate that Mars was and is a planet rich with water. Indeed, all the water that was ever on Mars remains there today locked beneath the Martian regolith. At least enough water to cover the entire surface of the orb to ankle depth or more.

Image courtesy of the United States Taxpayer
and Los Alamos National Laboratory

Interpretation of Gamma Ray Spectrometer data certainly does seem to indicate huge amounts of water (detected as hydrogen), hidden like buried treasure, in large underground aquifers on Mars as well as liquid water on the surface in certain locales. Recently at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union abstracts were presented which have gone as far suggesting this very thing, a position that even five years ago would have been considered untenable in the planetary science community.

The Mars anomaly research community has for some years now claimed that images reveal what appear to be standing bodies of liquid water are located in craters and other low lying areas. Numerous greyscale images from Mars are suggestive of standing water on the surface. However no definitive conclusion can be reached utilizing black and white imaging data. Spectrometer data indicates high concentrations of hydrogen in certain locales but NASA historically insists on classifying this as an optical illusion created by sand dunes rather than as water ice or subsurface aquifers. Going out on a limb and hypothesizing liquid water on the surface is definitely out if the question. The anomalists are obviously somewhat ahead of the curve in that they are willing to believe what their eyes tell them, just as Lowell did in the 1890's. So far ahead of the curve that only now, years later, is there new data available which supports their contentions. Water, the key to life as we know it. Lots of it. Certainly enough to justify a journey there, a prerequisite, if one day if we as a species hope to reside there.

Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Release: MOC2-74
Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera Image ID: 567897575.7707
Image courtesy NASA/JPL/MSSS

Here's a typical MSSS description of this of a greyscale image that is indicative of liquid water on the surface of Mars:

MOC image 7707 (above) shows a portion of the wall and floor of an ancient impact crater in the southern cratered terrain of Noachis Terra. The MOC image reveals v-shaped depressions on the crater wall that are characteristic of water seepage from an underground layer that is exposed in the crater walls. The image also shows a smooth, dark surface on the crater floor that might be interpreted as the remains of a pond or lake. There are two types of dark surfaces on the floor of this 50 kilometer (31 miles) diameter crater, located at 65ˇS, 15ˇW. One dark surface shows a rippled texture and is known from Viking images to be a field of windblown dunes. The other is a relatively smooth surface with "islands" of bright material within it. The boundary between the dark floor materials and the lighter materials of the crater wall suggests, by the formation of bays and peninsulas, a "ponding" relationship.

There are four general hypotheses that might explain the "pond":

(1) Water seeped out of a layer in the crater wall, ran downslope, and ponded on the crater floor. This water would have eventually dried up, leaving a dark surface of sand similar to the material that comprises the dunes.

(2) The meteorite impact that formed the crater created cracks in the martian crust beneath the crater. Eventually, dark (basaltic) lava came up through these cracks and "ponded" on the crater floor (this kind of process is not unusual and is known to have created the "mare" on the Moon). Heat from the magma and lava melted ground ice which then seeped as liquid water from a layer high in the crater wall.

(3) The seepage features are not related to the "ponding" feature. The "ponding" feature is actually coarse sand and/or gravel related to deflation of the crater floor and creation of the large field of dark sand dunes.

(4) None of the above are correct, and the features cannot be explained without additional information.

Apparently any explanation other than liquid water will suffice for the unbiased minds of our planetary science community.

Malin Space Science Systems has recently publicized what they call a "smoking gun" image (MOC2-543a) which shows what geologists term an "alluvial distributary fan" in a crater near the 40 mile diameter Holden crater at 24.3 degrees South/ 33.5 degrees West. This alludes to the fact that there was flowing liquid water-rivers on Mars for a long period of time after whatever cataclysm shotgunned the southern hemisphere of Mars, peppering it with a multiplicity of craters while leaving the northern hemisphere relatively unscathed.

"The distributary fan's discovery provides clear, unequivocal evidence that some valleys on Mars experienced the same type of ongoing, or persistent, flow over long periods of time as rivers do on Earth. ... and might be the strongest indicator yet that some craters and other depressions on Mars once held lakes."

-Dr. Michal Malin

Image crop from MOC2-543a
Alluvial fan indicative of river delta
24.3 degrees South/ 33.5 degrees West
Image courtesy NASA/JPL/MSSS

Keep Dr. Malin's comments in the back of your mind as you read this piece. His intimation that many of the depressions we see on Mars once held bodies of liquid water for substantial periods is an integral component of the re-evaluation of Lowell's theories,. It also has important ramifications for the Mars anomaly community and the search for extraterrestrial artifacts on Mars.

One line of reasoning (which includes Van Flandern's "Exploded Planet Hypothesis" and Hoagland's "Mars Tidal Model") states that Mars was the habitable moon of a water planet that blew up. The side facing the explosion got creamed. This accounts for the heavy cratering in the southern hemisphere and the relatively unscarred northern hemisphere. As to the mechanism that caused a planet to explode, one can only speculate. The possibilities run from a large cometary impact to interplanetary war.

This catastrophic scenario has always been a major hurdle for those individuals of singular conscience who study Mars for indications of indigenous artifacts of intelligent design. Various theories advanced assume that this cataclysmic event would have ripped away a large portion of Mars' atmosphere and caused all the water to suddenly freeze. The resulting debris kicked up into what was left of the ravaged atmosphere, eventually settling down to cover whatever was there before and then go to fulfill its highly versatile geological role as some Martian sand dune in the astronomy picture of the day. This obviously would have been a good time for anyone living there to take an extended vacation as the existing real estate would have been covered with very thick layers of dust.

A lot of well read folks subscribe to this theory. As a caveat to that, a large part of this group subscribes to the notion that this horrific planetary incident would have most likely wiped out any indigenous life forms. A subset of this group, knowing how tenacious life can be, reasons that this would have provided the impetus for the indigenous Martian technological culture to flee to the relative sanctuary of their nearest neighbor, Earth. Thus forming the basis for out most ancient myths and lost civilizations.

Numerous surface anomalies have cropped up in Mars images since the days of Viking, invariably adjacent to some crater's ejecta blanket or looking totally incongruous to it's surroundings. Around this time, some bright young fellow will point out that the anomaly would have to had been constructed after the Martian cataclysm and was therefore highly unlikely as it surely would have decimated any indigenous civilization. The anathema of suggesting contemporary intelligent activity was enough to quell most zealous, highly speculative researchers from investigating further, fearing loss of credibility. Indeed, most individuals receptive of the notion of alien artifacts on Mars believe these structures to be covered in a thick layer of detritus. It then follows that such structures were erected prior to this event.

However, if flowing water and its obligatory companion, a substantial atmosphere, were present on Mars for a (geologically) long period of time after the cataclysm (as the discovery of this "alluvial fan" in a large crater seems to imply), then it means that this argument is rendered moot in regards to many previously "debunked' anomalies theories or ideas. Mars had flowing rivers, crater lakes and a moderate climate with breathable air after the Apocalypse that peppered the southern hemisphere with millions of craters. It now becomes feasible that life existed on Mars after these cataclysmic events took place.

It's a whole new ball game folks. This begs the question that if these rivers were present on Mars for a an extended period, then is it within the realm of possibility that intelligent beings could be responsible for these amazing "glass tunnels", ruined structures, large scale effigies and intaglios seen so often in the latest Martian imagery? The answer would seem to be yes. It is not an impossible idea. When one sees indications of possible structures adjacent to a Martian crater one must now look upon the scene with a new perspective. This was once prime real estate. Lakefront property, so to speak. What better location to look if one is searching for sign of ancient cultures on Mars?

One possibility is that life flourished on Mars for an extended period after the cataclysm. A Civilization arose along the the flowing rivers. The surface anomalies seen in the Martian images are the archaeological remnants of a society that later disappeared for other unknown reasons such as a dramatic volcanic eruption or cometary impact which kicked up tons of debris into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and plunging Mars into a nuclear winter.

In a second scenario, a pre-catastrophic Martian civilization existed. Conditions on Mars were favorable enough for life to have survived for a significant period both before and after the cataclysm. Long enough for a dying race to muster all it's resources in a last ""Mega-Ditch"" effort to survive, fortifying the remnants of a badly damaged, already existing Martian planetary infrastructure.

Such circumstances would eventually force the remaining beings to flee the planet or move underground in order to survive. This would also allow for the difference in the appearance of many alleged Martian structures, some of which appears as crumbling archaeological ruins and others which appear relatively well maintained. Certain existing sites were abandoned, left in favor of new environs more suited to the times. This is pretty much how Lowell saw the situation and seems a reasonable enough assumption to this writer given the contemporary knowledge of Mars in the 1890's. It's still a plausible scenario given what we we know of Mars in the twenty first century. The discovery of the "alluvial fan" in the Holden crater brings either scenario into the realm of the possible.

After all is said and done (hopefully during this writer's lifetime), Percival Lowell may be the last man standing in an ongoing debate about our nearest heavenly neighbor that started when man first gazed at the stars and discovered that Mars was unique or different from all others. If these glass tunnels or Martian "canali" really do exist beneath the Martian regolith then they will most likely be revealed by subsequent data analysis over the next few years. The real trick will be for independent researchers to get access to the data in a timely and efficient manner.

NASA has a new round of science measurements afoot with the Mars Odyssey commencing it's primary mission. The highly sucessful Mars Global Surveyor, after having relayed reams of data and staggering images, still functions flawlessly and will be phased into a support role for it's successor. The ESA Mars Express is orbiting Mars as I write this, searching for it's ill fated Beagle lander, apparently gone missing as numerous Mars probes have over the last decade or so. It packs a suite of instruments (such as the Marsis ground penetrating radar) with capabilities to investigate as far as 3 miles beneath the surface of Mars and the ability to take high resolution color images which should provide answers to questions about possible standing pools of surface water in craters and what appear to be swaths of vegetation. Two NASA Rovers will explore the surface of Mars in 2004. Who knows, perhaps the same careless drivers at JPL that lost the last two landers will be responsible for the first Martian roadkill. Or perhaps the little rover will get stuck in the mud of Gusev crater and slowly sink like a mastodon into the La Brea tar pits.

Water in Ruell Vallis
Image c
redits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Above we see one of the first color images released by the ESA from their Mars Express probe. It shows an ancient river valley known as Reull Vallis. Numerous individuals have raised questions concerning the nature of the "blue stuff" at the valley bottom. It certainly looks like liquid water on the surface of Mars. This bodes well for proponents of the artificiality hypothesis with regards to Martian anomalies as the presence of liquid water is of tantamount importance to these theories. The ESA's Gerhard Neukum (Germany's Free University of Berlin) was quoted as saying "These images' black areas are not shadows," "It is material that was deposited at the bottom of these rivers." "What you are seeing is real,".

If so, then the blues and greens of Schiaparelli's "gemination" are as real as the black areas. This image arrives at an opportune moment as later in this piece we will show you several locations which we believe to show standing water in craters directly adjacent to the "glass tunnel" anomalies. It will be hard to dismiss the colorations in the Ruell Valley as a blue sand dune. A close look at the high resolution image reveals color variations that one would expect when seeing some type of biological action adjacent to a body of water. Liquid water and plant life would seem the obvious candidates for this color scheme indicative of a living planet. There has been speculation for years that one might find standing water on Mars in low lying elevations such a Valles Marineris. Such speculation appears now to be correct.

Below is MOC wide angle image M02-00302 which targeted the same area of Ruell Vallis. It's not much to write home about in black and white. Amazing what a splash of color brings to the analysis. The river valley itself holds little excitement. Given NASA"s historical record on such issues, the dark spot would have been dismissed as shadows due to sun angle and local topography. The ESA has already refuted this scenario. If indeed there is liquid water evident in the many grey scale images produced by MGS, then this is probably a good indicator of how these watery areas will look when imaged in black and white.

More remarkably, if this is water, then the amount standing in the Ruell river valley has visibly increased over the four years since May of 2000 when MGS imaged the area. This suggests a possible indication of seasonal flooding or a general overall increase in surface water levels on Mars over the last four years. Just as in the days of Schiaparelli and Lowell, we see the surface of Mars changing during repeated observations.

Ruell Vallis
Image c

We must confess our surprise that no one has pointed out the large buried pyramidal structure located on the banks of the Ruell River. It is readily discernible in the ESA color and NASA greyscale images. The ESA was even kind enough to produce a three dimensional perspective image of this landform, although they cropped the bottom part of it from the image. After twenty five years of hubbub over the dusty pyramids at Cydonia one would think someone would have pointed this landform out. Perhaps the inability of successive imaging acquisitions of the D&M pyramid to provide confirmation of such archeological theories has made Mars anomaly pundits hesitant to go out on a limb with such speculations. Or perhaps the sight of all that "blue stuff" has them stupefied.

3-D image of Ruell Valley Landform
Image c
redits: ESA/DLR/FU

In light of new data, well grounded researchers must view such contentions with a more favorable disposition. The discovery of the alluvial fan and the presence of standing water on the surface of Mars lends much needed support to the proponents of the artificiality hypothesis. One can now state with reasonable certainty that conditions on Mars were favorable for a long enough period in it's early history for a civilization to have evolved there. If such landforms as Cydonia's D&M pyramid and the Ruell Vallis pyramid are hollow to some extent, ground penetrating radar data will reveal any interior chambers over the coming years. If civilization did exist on Mars, what better spot to build a Pyramid than on the banks of a river? It fits the intelligent intervention model nicely and Lowell would've appreciated it seeing it next to one of his canals. It certainly looks as convincing as anything the debris encrusted Cydonia region has to offer in the way of pyramids.

Ruell Pyramid
© 2004 Dangerzone productions

Hopefully, in 2005 the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will acquire Mars orbit armed with the ability see well below the surface of Mars as well as having the capability of imaging items the size of a kitchen table. I'd be inclined to say a betting man would be "in the know" if he wagered that at those resolutions some pretty inexplicable things will be seen on Mars. Perhaps the Mars science consortium will explain them away as very small sand dunes or some such other inelegant nomenclature.

The more we learn about Mars the more we realize how little we know. Mars is not the dead planet of Viking era science. We can state that with reasonable certainty. It seems to more closely resemble the vibrant, living world Percival Lowell and Giovanni Schiaparelli envisioned than the Mars they taught us about in school. Could Lowell's insights about Mars be corroborated more than a century later? Revisiting Lowell after so long a time might shed light on if his ideas were meritorious and deserving of further study. One would think that reading Lowell's research would seem somewhat scientifically quaint in light of the data generated with 21st century technology. However, Lowell's vision of a dynamic, constantly changing Mars is as compelling today as it was in the late 1800's.

Bear in mind that Lowell committed his words and research to paper in 1895-three years before my grandparents were born. Eight years before the Wright Brothers took flight at Kill Devil Hill. These were days of scientific wonder when long dreamt of technological leaps such as electrical generating plants at Niagara and wireless telegraphy were becoming reality. Gossip buzzed of horseless carriages and those well traveled claimed to have seen one once. The recently opened Suez canal and transcontinental railroads were rapidly shrinking the world. Goddard and Von Braun had not yet conceived the notion of propelling tin cans into the abyss beyond the atmosphere on tons of high explosives but Jules Verne had written of such a possibility. Contemporary science and technology were on the cusp, ready to leap forward by orders of magnitude in the same era that Percival Lowell was galvanizing audiences with his elocutions on Mars. It was a world where the public was ready to accept new theories should they sound plausible, much to the chagrin of contemporary academia. Apparently, similar attitudes are still pervasive in both groups today. The idea of advanced civilization on Mars sounded as reasonable to the public of the 1890's as the possible existence of extraterrestrials is to the contemporary Star Trek or Star Wars fan.

Men like Lowell are one of the primary reasons we still ponder these issues today. Some of the individuals that Lowell directly influenced were responsible for creating a genre that keeps the idea of alien life alive and beaming directly into our homes on a weekly basis, turning some of these aliens into cultural icons.

It's possible we may find that old Percy hit the mark on a thing or two. In order to determine this, we will examine Percival Lowell's documentation and review some excerpts from his 1895 classic "Mars" and the 1908 sequel, "Mars, As The Abode of Life", with photo commentary courtesy of NASA/JPL/MSSS with a little help from the talented folks at Danger Team Image Labs!!

Lowell's Legacy- Part 2

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