Giovanni Schiaparelli

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, ForMemRS HFRSE (Italian: [dʒoˈvanːi virˈdʒiːnjo skjapaˈrɛlːi]; 14 March 1835 – 4 July 1910) was an Italian astronomer and science historian.

Giovanni Schiaparelli
Giovanni Schiaparelli 1890s
Giovanni Schiaparelli
Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli

14 March 1835
Died4 July 1910 (aged 75)
Scientific career


He studied at the University of Turin, graduating in 1854, and later did research at Berlin Observatory, under Encke. In 1859–1860 he worked in Pulkovo Observatory near St Petersburg, and then worked for over forty years at Brera Observatory in Milan. He was also a senator of the Kingdom of Italy, a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino and the Regio Istituto Lombardo, and is particularly known for his studies of Mars.


Karte Mars Schiaparelli MKL1888
Schiaparelli's surface map of Mars

Among Schiaparelli's contributions are his telescopic observations of Mars. In his initial observations, he named the "seas" and "continents" of Mars. During the planet's "Great Opposition" of 1877, he observed a dense network of linear structures on the surface of Mars which he called "canali" in Italian, meaning "channels" but the term was mistranslated into English as "canals".[2]

While the term "canals" indicates an artificial construction, the term "channels" connotes that the observed features were natural configurations of the planetary surface. From the incorrect translation into the term "canals", various assumptions were made about life on Mars; as these assumptions were popularized, the "canals" of Mars became famous, giving rise to waves of hypotheses, speculation, and folklore about the possibility of intelligent life on Mars, the Martians. Among the most fervent supporters of the artificial-canal hypothesis was the American astronomer Percival Lowell, who spent much of his life trying to prove the existence of intelligent life on the red planet.[2] After Lowell's death in 1916, astronomers developed a consensus against the canal hypothesis, but the popular concept of Martian canals excavated by intelligent Martians remained in the public mind for the first half of the 20th century, and inspired a corpus of works of classic science fiction.

Later, with notable thanks to the observations of the Italian astronomer Vincenzo Cerulli, scientists came to the conclusion that the famous channels were actually mere optical illusions. The last popular speculations about canals were finally put to rest during the spaceflight era beginning in the 1960s, when visiting spacecraft such as Mariner 4 photographed the surface with much higher resolution than Earth-based telescopes, confirming that there are no structures resembling "canals".

In his book Life on Mars, Schiaparelli wrote: "Rather than true channels in a form familiar to us, we must imagine depressions in the soil that are not very deep, extended in a straight direction for thousands of miles, over a width of 100, 200 kilometers and maybe more. I have already pointed out that, in the absence of rain on Mars, these channels are probably the main mechanism by which the water (and with it organic life) can spread on the dry surface of the planet."

Astronomy and history of science

Mercure carte schiaparelli
Schiaparelli's planisphere of Mercury
Asteroids discovered: 1 [3]
69 Hesperia 29 April 1861 MPC

An observer of objects in the Solar System, Schiaparelli worked on binary stars, discovered the large main-belt asteroid 69 Hesperia on 29 April 1861,[4] and demonstrated that the meteor showers were associated with comets.[5] He proved, for example, that the orbit of the Leonid meteor shower coincided with that of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. These observations led the astronomer to formulate the hypothesis, subsequently proved to be correct, that the meteor showers could be the trails of comets. He was also a keen observer of the inner planets Mercury and Venus. He made several drawings and determined their rotation periods.[5] In 1965, it was shown that his and most other subsequent measurements of Mercury's period were incorrect.[6]

Schiaparelli was a scholar of the history of classical astronomy. He was the first to realize that the concentric spheres of Eudoxus of Cnidus and Callippus, unlike those used by many astronomers of later times, were not to be taken as material objects, but only as part of an algorithm similar to the modern Fourier series.

Honors and awards

Giovanni Schiaparelli grave Milan 2015
Schiaparelli's grave at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan, Italy


Named after him


His niece, Elsa Schiaparelli, became a noted designer or maker of haute couture.[10]

Selected writings

  • 1873 – Le stelle cadenti (The Falling Stars)
  • 1893 – La vita sul pianeta Marte (Life on Mars)
  • 1925 – Scritti sulla storia della astronomia antica (Writings on the History of Classical Astronomy) in three volumes. Bologna. Reprint: Milano, Mimesis, 1997.


  1. ^ Senato Website
  2. ^ a b Washam, Erik, "Cosmic Errors: Martians Build Canals!", Smithsonian magazine, December 2010.
  3. ^ "Minor Planet Discoverers (by number)". Minor Planet Center. 23 May 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  4. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(69) Hesperia". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (69) Hesperia. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 22. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_70. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
  5. ^ a b c d e Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(4062) Schiaparelli". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (4062) Schiaparelli. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 347. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_4041. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
  6. ^ Defrancesco, S. (April 1988). "Schiaparelli's determination of the rotation period of Mercury: a re-examination" (PDF). Journal of the British Astronomical Association. 98: 146–150(JBAAHomepage). Bibcode:1988JBAA...98..146D. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  7. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Schiaparelli Dorsum". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN).
  9. ^ Patterson, Sean (8 November 2013). "ESA Names ExoMars Lander 'Schiaparelli'". Space Fellowship. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  10. ^ "ELSA SCHIAPARELLI". Vogue.

Further reading

External links


69 Hesperia

Hesperia ( hes-PEER-ee-ə; minor planet designation: 69 Hesperia) is a large, M-type main-belt asteroid. It was discovered by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli on April 29, 1861 from Milan. It was his only asteroid discovery. Schiaparelli named it Hesperia in honour of Italy (the word is a Greek term for the peninsula).Hesperia was observed by Arecibo radar in February 2010. Radar observations combined with lightcurve-based shape models, lead to a diameter estimate of 110 ± 15 km (68 ± 9.3 mi). In the near infrared, a weak absorption feature near a wavelength of 0.9 μm can be attributed to orthopyroxenes on the surface. A meteorite analogue of the reflectance spectra from 69 Hesperia is the Hoba ataxite.

Acidalia Planitia

Acidalia Planitia is a plain on Mars. It is located between the Tharsis volcanic province and Arabia Terra to the north of Valles Marineris, centered at 49.8°N 339.3°E / 49.8; 339.3. Most of this region is found in the Mare Acidalium quadrangle, but a small part is in the Ismenius Lacus quadrangle. The plain contains the famous Cydonia region at the contact with the heavily cratered highland terrain.

The plain is named after a corresponding albedo feature on a map by Giovanni Schiaparelli, which was in turn named after the mythological fountain of Acidalia.

Some places in Acidalia Planitia show cones; some researchers have suggested that these are mud volcanoes. The scientific community is still debating the possible existence of an ancient ocean over Acidalia Planitia and other parts of the northern lowlands.

Aram Chaos

Aram Chaos, centered at 2.6°N, 21.5°W, is a heavily eroded impact crater on the planet Mars. It lies at the eastern end of the large canyon Valles Marineris and close to Ares Vallis. Various geological processes have reduced it to a circular area of chaotic terrain. Aram Chaos takes its name from Aram, one of the classical albedo features observed by Giovanni Schiaparelli, who named it after the Biblical land of Aram. Spectroscopic observation from orbit indicates the presence of the mineral hematite, likely a signature of a once aqueous environment.

Aram Chaos measures about 280 kilometers (170 mi) across, and lies in a region called Margaritifer Terra, where many water-carved channels show that floods poured out of the highlands onto the northern lowlands ages ago. It is in the Oxia Palus quadrangle. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on the orbiter Mars Odyssey found gray crystalline hematite on the floor of Aram. CRISM, the spectroscope on the MRO, found hydrated sulfates, jarosite, and hematite. Hematite is an iron-oxide mineral that can precipitate when ground water circulates through iron-rich rocks, whether at normal temperatures or in hot springs. The floor of Aram contains huge blocks of collapsed, or chaotic, terrain that formed when water or ice was catastrophically removed. Elsewhere on Mars, the release of groundwater produced massive floods that eroded the large channels seen in Ares Vallis and similar outflow valleys. In Aram Chaos, however, the released water stayed mostly within the crater's ramparts, eroding only a small, shallow outlet channel in the eastern wall. Several minerals including hematite sulfate minerals, and water-altered silicates in Aram suggests that a lake probably once existed within the crater. Because forming hematite requires liquid water, which could not long exist without a thick atmosphere, Mars must have had a much thicker atmosphere at some time in the past.

Arcadia Planitia

Arcadia Planitia is a smooth plain with fresh lava flows and Amazonian volcanic flows on Mars. It was named by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1882 after the Arcadia region of ancient Greece.

It dates from the Amazonian period's Arcadia formation's lava flows and small cinder cones.

It includes a more recently developed large region of aeolian materials derived from periglacial processes.

It is located northwest of the Tharsis region in the northern lowlands, spanning roughly the region 40-60° North and 150-180° West, straddling partly in the Cebrenia quadrangle (MC-07), and partly in the Diacria one (MC-02), and centered at 47.2°N 184.3°E / 47.2; 184.3. Arcadia marks a transition from the thinly cratered terrain to its north and the very old cratered terrain to the south.

On its east it runs into the Alba Mons volcanoes.

Its elevation relative to the geodetic datum varies between 0 and -3 km.

In a lot of the low areas of Arcadia, one finds grooves and sub-parallel ridges. These indicate movement of near surface materials and are similar to features on earth where near surface materials flow together very slowly as helped by the freezing and thawing of water located between ground layers. This supports the proposition of ground ice in the near surface of Mars in this area. This area represents an area of interest for scientists to investigate further.

Argyre Planitia

Argyre Planitia is a plain located within the impact basin Argyre in the southern highlands of Mars. Its name comes from a map produced by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877; it refers to Argyre, a mythical island of silver in Greek mythology.

Argyre is centered at 49.7°S 316.0°E / -49.7; 316.0 and lies between 35° and 61° S and 27° and 62° W in the Argyre quadrangle. The basin is approximately 1,800 km (1,100 mi) wide and drops 5.2 km (17,000 ft) below the surrounding plains; it is the second deepest impact basin on Mars after Hellas. The crater Galle, located on the east rim of Argyre at 51°S 31°W, strongly resembles a smiley face.

The basin was possibly formed by a giant impact during the Late Heavy Bombardment of the early Solar System, approximately 3.9 billion years ago, and may be one of the best preserved ancient impact basins from that period. Argyre is surrounded by rugged massifs which form concentric and radial patterns around the basin. Several mountain ranges are present, including Charitum and Nereidum Montes.

Arsia Mons

Arsia Mons is the southernmost of three volcanos (collectively known as Tharsis Montes) on the Tharsis bulge near the equator of the planet Mars. To its north is Pavonis Mons, and north of that is Ascraeus Mons. The tallest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, is to its northwest. Its name comes from a corresponding albedo feature on a map by Giovanni Schiaparelli, which he named in turn after the legendary Roman forest of Arsia Silva.

Beer (Martian crater)

Beer is a crater lying situated within the Margaritifer Sinus quadrangle (MC-19) region of the planet Mars, named in honor of the German astronomer, Wilhelm Beer. It is located at 14.4°S 351.8°E .

Beer and collaborator Johann Heinrich Mädler produced the first reasonably good maps of Mars in the early 1830s. When doing so, they selected a particular feature for the prime meridian of their charts. Their choice was strengthened when Giovanni Schiaparelli used the same location in 1877 for his more famous maps of Mars. The feature was later called Sinus Meridiani ("Middle Bay"), but following the landing of the NASA probe MER-B Opportunity in 2004 it is perhaps better known as Meridiani Planum. Currently the Martian prime meridian is the crater Airy-0.

Beer lies in the southwest of Meridiani Planum, about 8° from the prime meridian and about 10° west from the crater Mädler. Schiaparelli is also in the region.

Classical albedo features on Mars

The classical albedo features of Mars are the light and dark features that can be seen on the planet Mars through an Earth-based telescope. Before the age of space probes, several astronomers created maps of Mars on which they gave names to the features they could see. The most popular system of nomenclature was devised by Giovanni Schiaparelli, who used names from classical antiquity. Today, the improved understanding of Mars enabled by space probes has rendered many of the classical names obsolete for the purposes of cartography; however, some of the old names are still used to describe geographical features on the planet.

Collis (planetary nomenclature)

Collis (plural: colles, from the Latin word for "hill") is a small hill or knob on a celestial body. The term is used in planetary nomenclature: it is a part of international proper names of such features. Like other generic terms, it is capitalized and stands after the proper name (for example, Bilbo Colles; the only exception is Colles Nili on Mars). As of 2015, only groups of the hills have names, and the term is used only in plural.Like the other terms of planetary nomenclature, this word describes only external view of the features, but not their origin or geological structure. So, it is used for hills of any origin. Names of bigger (especially domical) uplands usually contain the term Tholus ("dome"), and the names of still bigger mountains – the term Mons ("mountain"). Peculiar round mountains, which are found on Venus, get names with the term Farrum.The term Collis was introduced into planetary nomenclature in 1982, on XVIIIth General Assembly of International Astronomical Union. This year two groups of hills on Mars were named (Ariadnes Colles and Deuteronilus Colles). As of May 2015, 43 such groups are named: 22 on Mars, 16 on Venus and 5 on Titan. On different celestial bodies they are named differently:

on Venus, after sea goddesses

on Mars, after nearby albedo features on classical maps by Giovanni Schiaparelli or Eugène Antoniadi

on Titan, after characters from Tolkien's Middle-earth

on Pluto, after pioneering spacecraft

Frederik Kaiser

Frederik Kaiser (Amsterdam, June 10, 1808 – Leiden, July 28, 1872) was a Dutch astronomer.

He was director of the Leiden Observatory from 1838 until his death.

He is credited with the advancement of Dutch astronomy through his scientific contributions of positional measurements, his popularization of astronomy in the Netherlands, and by helping to build a state-of-the-art observatory in 1861 (Today it is known as the "Old Observatory").

He made a series of drawings of Mars at its opposition in 1862 and made a fairly precise determination of its rotational period.

Craters on Mars and on the Moon are named in his honour, as well as asteroid 1694 Kaiser.

In Richard Proctor's now-abandoned Martian nomenclature, Syrtis Major Planum was called the "Kaiser Sea". This nomenclature was later dropped in favor of the one introduced by Giovanni Schiaparelli.

Kaiser's parents were Johann Wilhelm Keyser and Anna Sibella Liernur but he was raised by his uncle Johan Frederik Keyser from the age of eight.

Geography of Mars

The geography of Mars, also known as areography, entails the delineation and characterization of regions on Mars. Martian geography is mainly focused on what is called physical geography on Earth; that is the distribution of physical features across Mars and their cartographic representations.

List of Martian canals

This is an incomplete list of Martian canals from the erroneous belief in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that "Martian canals" existed on the surface of the red planet. These canals were named by Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, amongst others, after real and legendary rivers of various places on Earth or the mythological underworld. A partial list of names are provided below with the regions that the canals were thought to connect.

List of areas of chaos terrain on Mars

This is a list of areas of chaos terrain officially named by the International Astronomical Union on the planet Mars. Chaos terrain (or chaotic terrain) is an astrogeological term used to denote planetary surface areas where features such as ridges, cracks, and plains appear jumbled and enmeshed with one another. Coordinates are in planetocentric latitude with east longitude.

Areas of chaos terrain are usually named after a nearby albedo feature as in line with the IAU's rules on planetary nomenclature. Such an albedo feature must feature on the maps of Mars made by either Giovanni Schiaparelli or Eugène Michel Antoniadi and are listed at Classical albedo features on Mars.

Louis Thollon

Louis Thollon (May 2, 1829 – April 8, 1887) was a French astronomer.

He was born in Ambronay, France. Beginning in 1881, Thollon joined the staff of the new Nice Observatory where he undertook a long-term observation program of the Sun using a spectroscope of his own design. In the process, he recorded a solar spectrum consisting of 3,000 absorption lines in the optical band.In 1882, he joined André Puiseux on an expedition to Egypt to observe the solar eclipse on May 17. The same year he traveled to Portugal to watch the Venus transit, but met with disappointment. During the 1886 Mars opposition, he assisted the observatory director, Henri Perrotin, in observing the planet with a 15 in (38 cm) reflecting telescope. Both men reported that they spotted canali on the surface of the planet, apparently confirming the 1877 discovery of these features by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. Thollon died in Lyon, France.

Luigi Torchi (inventor)

Luigi Torchi invented the first direct multiplication machine in 1834. This was also the second key-driven machine in the world, following that of James White (1822).

Very little is known about the inventor and the machine. We only know that he was a carpenter; his machine was awarded of a gold metal from the Imperial-regio istituto lombardo di scienze, lettere e arti in Milan in 1834. A document of such occasion provides the known details of the machine, where a second document shows a drawing of the machine itself. However, no detailed documents about how it worked are known to exist.

The machine was exhibited in Brera between 1834 and 1837; it was later found by Giovanni Schiaparelli in bad conditions. After that, are not known further information about the machine.

Martian canal

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was erroneously believed that there were "canals" on the planet Mars. These were a network of long straight lines in the equatorial regions from 60° north to 60° south latitude on Mars, observed by astronomers using early low-resolution telescopes without photography. They were first described by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli during the opposition of 1877, and confirmed by later observers. Schiaparelli called these canali, which was translated into English as "canals". The Irish astronomer Charles E. Burton made some of the earliest drawings of straight-line features on Mars, although his drawings did not match Schiaparelli's. Around the turn of the century there was even speculation that they were engineering works, irrigation canals constructed by an intelligent alien race indigenous to Mars. By the early 20th century, improved astronomical observations revealed the "canals" to be an optical illusion, and modern high-resolution mapping of the Martian surface by spacecraft shows no such features.

Middlesbrough meteorite

The Middlesbrough Meteorite fell in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, England on March 14, 1881.

The meteorite fell in the afternoon, hitting the ground around 3:35 pm. Although there were reports that sound generated as the object travelled through the Earth's atmosphere was heard in some areas of Yorkshire, the meteorite was unusual in that the sonic boom that would normally be associated with a meteorite entering the atmosphere was not heard by anyone who witnessed the fall, nor were there were any reports of either a fireball or smoke trail.The site of the impact was at the railway siding Pennymans's Siding, close to the site of the now demolished St. Luke's Hospital (now Roseberry Park). The impact was witnessed by workmen only yards away, who heard a "rushing or roaring" sound followed by thud, as the meteorite hit a nearby embankment, leaving a hole described by the astronomer Alexander Herschel as a "round vertical hole into which a man's arm might be thrust". The meteorite had penetrated to a depth of about 30 cm and was described as "new milk warm" to the touch by the workmen when they retrieved the object.Herschel, who was then Professor of Physics and Experimental Sciences at Durham College of Physical Science in Newcastle upon Tyne, rushed to Middlesbrough on hearing the news to supervise the recovery and examination of the meteorite. By experimentation, replicating the conditions of the impact, he determined the speed of the object at the time was 412 feet per second (281 mph). This result was viewed as partial confirmation of a theory of the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli that meteorites lost most of their cosmic velocity, the velocity they had before entering the Earth's atmosphere, due to air resistance at a high altitude in the atmosphere.The Middlesbrough meteorite is classified as a chondrite. It is approximately 4,500 million years old and was formed at the same time as the Earth and the solar system. It is approximately 6 inches in diameter, weighs 3 pounds 8.75 ounces (approximately 1.5 kg) and has a crust of unusual thickness - it was recovered in one piece. A 3D scan of the object was made by NASA scientists in 2010.Due to Middlesbrough not having a museum at the time of its fall to Earth, the meteorite was handed over to the Yorkshire Museum where it has been ever since. In March 2011, the 130th anniversary of its fall to Earth, it was lent to the town's Dorman Museum where it was put on display for several weeks.

Mädler (Martian crater)

Mädler is a crater on Mars named in honor of the German astronomer Johann Heinrich Mädler. It is located at 2.7°E 10.7°S.

Mädler and collaborator Wilhelm Beer produced the first reasonably good maps of Mars in the early 1830s. When doing so, they selected a particular feature for the prime meridian of their charts. Their choice was strengthened when Giovanni Schiaparelli used the same location in 1877 for his more famous maps of Mars. The feature was later called Sinus Meridiani ("Middle Bay" or "Bay of the Meridian"), but following the landing of the NASA probe MER-B Opportunity in 2004 is perhaps better known as Meridiani Planum.

Mädler lies in the south of Meridiani Planum, close to the prime meridian and about 10° east of Beer. Schiaparelli is also in the region.

Schiaparelli (Martian crater)

Schiaparelli is an impact crater on Mars, located near the planet's equator at latitude 3° south and longitude 344° in the Sinus Sabaeus quadrangle. It measures approximately 459 kilometers in diameter and was named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, known for his observations of the Red Planet and his mistranslated term "canali". The name was adopted by IAU's Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature in 1973.

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