If there is a planet in the Solar System that has always monopolized the attention of astronomers, this is Mars. He has been responsible for many beliefs and superstitions. When in 1877 the red planet passed very close to the Earth, all the astronomers of the world eagerly directed towards him its rudimentary telescopes. Giovanni Schiaparelli, taking advantage of a moment of exceptional atmospheric transparency, discovered that the surface was crossed by a series of grooves. From Milan, the discovery toured the entire world and the furrows, which they called canals, soon led to believe that the surface of Mars was covered by a system of artificial canals for irrigation.
Some years later, astronomer Percival Lowell developed his own theory about the origin of the Martian canals. According to Lowell, it was what remained of an ancient civilization. The sudden climatic changes of the planet had forced the Martian engineers to resort to these channels, which carried water from the poles, to carry out the necessary irrigation for the survival of their people.
Today we know that the grooves are nothing but a strange optical effect due to the Earth's atmosphere. However, it is clear that, although the probes have not found traces of an ancient Martian civilization, it is not necessary to exclude the possibility of life on the planet, although at a very elementary level, since it is difficult to make hypotheses about forms of life more evolved in such a hostile environment.
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