Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/361

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
347
SCENES ON THE PLANETS.

struments show is connected with the mysterious system of "canals," can be detected, but the "canals" themselves are far beyond the reach of any telescope except a few of the giants handled by experienced observers. The conviction which seems to have forced its way into the minds even of some conservative astronomers, that on Mars the conditions, to use the expression of Professor Young, "are more nearly earthlike than on any other of the heavenly bodies which we can see with our present telescopes," is sufficient to make the planet a center of undying interest notwithstanding the PSM V56 D0361 Venus atmosphere illumanted by cross sun transit.pngThe Illumination of Venus's Atmosphere at the beginning of her Transit across the Sun. difficulties with which the amateur is confronted in his endeavors to see the details of its markings. In Venus "the fatal gift of beauty" may be said, as far as our observations are concerned, to be matched by the equally fatal gift of brilliance. Whether it be due to atmospheric reflection alone or to the prevalence of clouds, Venus is so bright that considerable doubt exists as to the actual visibility of any permanent markings on her surface. The detailed representations of the disk of Venus by Mr. Percival Lowell, showing in some respects a resemblance to the stripings of Mars, can not yet be accepted as decisive. More experienced astronomers than Mr. Lowell have been unable to see at all things which he draws with a fearless and unhesitating pencil. That there are some shadowy features of the planet's surface to be seen in favorable circumstances is probable, but the time for drawing a "map of Venus" has not yet come.

The previous work of Schiaparelli lends a certain degree of probability to Mr. Lowell's observations on the rotation of Venus. This rotation, according to the original announcement of Schiaparelli, is probably performed in the same period as the revolution around the sun. In other words, Venus, if Schiaparelli and Lowell are right, always presents the same side to the sun, possessing, in consequence, a day hemisphere and a night hemisphere which never interchange places. This condition is so antagonistic to all our