Exploring Mars by Robert S. Richardson

It doesn’t take long getting into the book that yes indeed, it was published in 1954. No landing on Mars, travel to Mars, or even an orbital flight (Sputnik was in 1957).. all was speculation at that time. And it was wonderful! Using the only methods they knew of, astronomers were pushing for bigger glass on higher mountains. The concept of lucky imaging (thousands of short exposures, picking the best and applying computers) was a total unknown at the time, as computers of the day were good at grade school arithmetic and that is about all.


I am showing an image of Mars (probably the best available at the time of publication) in a red filter, that the text credits Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, 200 inch). That leaves a little uncertainty if it is in fact Mt. Wilson with 60 and 10 inch telescopes, or Palomar with the 200 inch.

I enclose as a comparison one of my best images during the closest approach in the summer of 2016, using an 8 inch and modern computer (and camera) power. With more processing I believe the 8 inch image could approach that of the 200(?).


As part of talking about Mars, the author also made comparisons to other planets, Jupiter being one.

We all have heard that the Great Red Spot is shrinking, and by extension it was larger in the past. But it didn’t really hit me until I saw this photo of Jupiter and the GRS taken with again, either the 60, 100 or 200 inch telescope and how freakin big the storm was then.

Attached is another image of that along with one of my best with the 8 inch, showing this years GRS… much smaller! I now live in fear that the GRS will disappear in my lifetime.
Now to compare and contrast with Mars: The Lure of the Red Planet (2001) by William Sheehan and Stephen James O’Meara (image attached).

Wow. What a difference 46 years make! If you decide to read these books I would recommend doing one after the other (oldest first), to help keep things in mind and how they have changed. This book was an excellent read, and very far ranging through history, mythology, astronomy and spaceprobes. Loved it!