In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed the night sky. Mars was especially interesting to him and when he checked it out a little more closely he made out a large system of canals. The illustration above was made by him.
Over the next few years, other astronomers would confirm Schiaparelli’s findings as they all also saw patterns of lines on the red planet. Some would argue that it was merely an optical illusion. Nevertheless, the popular opinion at the time agreed that there must not only be life on Mars, but that it was densely populated by intelligent Marsians with large rivers, lakes and a lush flora. Over the next decades telescope technology would improve and deliver clearer image of Mars’ surface. Finally, in 1965 the US sent a planetary exploration spacecraft on a flyby to Mars. The pictures it sent were revealing. There were no canals, no life and nothing that even remotely confirmed life on the red planet.
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