Slide 1 of 15
Humans have been seeing strange things on the surface of Mars for centuries. From the 1700s up through the present day, widespread fame has been available to anyone able to produce even the slightest bit of flimsy evidence that there's Martian life.
The most recent example was this week's supposed revelation that a secret Mars base , inhabited either by humans or Martians, can be seen in a photo of the Red Planet's surface taken by an orbiting spacecraft.
But scientific rigor has always stepped in to prove that these objects are not really there. In this vast and lonely universe, are Earthlings just desperate for next-door neighbors to play with? Looking back over the long history of Martian illusions (and human delusions), it certainly seems so.
Land and seaSlide 2 of 15
Land and sea
In 1784, Sir William Herschel, a famous British astronomer, wrote that dark areas on Mars were oceans and lighter areas were land. He speculated that Mars was inhabited by intelligent beings who "probably enjoy a situation similar to our own." Herschel's theory prevailed for a century, with other astronomers claiming that vegetation could even be observed in the lighter-colored regions taken to be land. Fortunately for Herschel, his other contributions to astronomy which have earned him the honor of being the namesake of two powerful observatories were great enough to keep his theories on Martians near the bottom of his biography.Slide 3 of 15
Canali vs. canalsSlide 4 of 15
Canali vs. canals
During Mars' close approach to Earth in 1877, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli peered through his telescope and observed grooves or channels on the Red Planet's surface. The Italian word he used for them, "canali," was translated to "canals" in English, leading many in the English-speaking world to conclude that Mars had intelligent life that had built a system of waterways.
That misconception was popularized by an astronomer named Percival Lowell, who in 1895 presented drawings of the canals in a book, titled "Mars," and argued his full theory in a second book, "Mars as the Abode of Life," in 1908. The inaccuracy was further fueled, historians say, by excitement over the construction of the Suez Canal, an engineering marvel of the era completed in 1869.
The theory was debunked in the early twentieth century, when it was demonstrated that the "canals" were merely optical illusions: when viewed through poor-quality telescopes, pointlike features, such as Mars' mountains and craters, appear to be joined together by straight lines. Later, spectroscopic analysis of the light coming from Mars showed that there was no water on its surface. [Would Humans Born On Mars Grow Taller than Earthlings? ]Slide 5 of 15
ET radioSlide 6 of 15
In 1921, Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the first radio telegraph system, claimed to hear signals that he thought might be Martian. The next year and again in 1924, at times when Mars swung relatively close to Earth, the U.S. government asked all radio stations to go silent so that they could listen out for any Martian transmissions coming our way.
But ET radio was silent.Slide 7 of 15
The faceSlide 8 of 15