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Giovanni Schiaparelli - Windows to the Universe

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Giovanni Schiaparelli

Gioavanni Schiaparelli was an Italian astronomer who lived between 1835-1910. He observed patterned straight lines on the surface of Mars, and called them "canali", Italian for channels.

Unfortunately, "canali" was mistranslated into canals, which implied that artificial structures existed on the red planet. This caused a flood of study on Mars, with many scientists expecting to find life there.

Schiaparelli proved that since a comet's tail points away from the sun there must be a repulsive force between the two bodies. He also explained that meteor showers, such as the famous Perseids, result from the dissolution of comet's tails.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF