The Canals of Mars

Mar 13, 2006 5:52pm

Percival Lowell, the man who popularized the idea that Mars had canals, would be a hundred and fifty-one years old today, and Google has taken advantage of the occasion.  If you go to their site and click on their slightly-altered logo (not enter search terms), you’ll be taken to www.google.com/mars, where they’ve posted a false-color map of the red planet, supplied to them by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Arizona State University.  The map’s colors correspond to altitude: blue is low, red, orange and white are high.  Zoom out and you’ll see that most of Mars’ northern hemisphere is bright-blue lowlands; scientists have suggested that Mars may once have had a vast northern ocean, just as the Earth, seen from the proper angle, is mostly water south of its equator.

The Mars map dates to 1999.  If you want a more up-to-date tribute to Mr. Lowell, NASA has put together an animation in which you fly through Valles Marineris, a giant canyon along the Martian equator.  Click HERE; then, if you have broadband, choose your preferred player. 

The pictures are computer-processed from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars for two years.  It was NASA’s most sophisticated Mars orbiter until Friday; see my post from then.

This being Mr. Lowell’s birthday, it’s fitting to take a closeup look at the one clearly-visible channel on Mars.

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