Fiction With Purpose Science Trip To Venus, A

Trip To Venus, A

Trip To Venus, A
Catalog # SKU3679
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name John Munro
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


A Trip To Venus

John Munro

As early as 1820 it was known in Europe that in Middle Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile, in the district between Minieh and Siut, there lay the remains of a great city of Ancient Egypt.

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While I was glancing at the Times newspaper in a morning train for London my eyes fell on the following item:-

A STRANGE LIGHT ON MARS.-On Monday afternoon, Dr. Krueger, who is in charge of the central bureau at Kiel, telegraphed to his correspondents:-

"Projection lumineuse dans région australe du terminateur de Mars observée par Javelle 28 courant, 16 heures.-Perrotin."

In plain English, at 4 a.m., a ray of light had been observed on the disc of the planet Mars in or near the "terminator"; that is to say, the zone of twilight separating day from night. The news was doubly interesting to me, because a singular dream of "Sunrise in the Moon" had quickened my imagination as to the wonders of the universe beyond our little globe, and because of a never-to-be-forgotten experience of mine with an aged astronomer several years ago.

This extraordinary man, living the life of a recluse in his own observatory, which was situated in a lonely part of the country, had, or at any rate, believed that he had, opened up a communication with the inhabitants of Mars, by means of powerful electric lights, flashing in the manner of a signal-lantern or heliograph. I had set him down as a monomaniac; but who knows? perhaps he was not so crazy after all.

When evening came I turned to the books, and gathered a great deal about the fiery planet, including the fact that a stout man, a Daniel Lambert, could jump his own height there with the greatest ease. Very likely; but I was seeking information on the strange light, and as I could not find any I resolved to walk over and consult my old friend, Professor Gazen, the well-known astronomer, who had made his mark by a series of splendid researches with the spectroscope into the constitution of the sun and other celestial bodies.

It was a fine clear night. The sky was cloudless and of a deep dark blue, which revealed the highest heavens and the silvery lustre of the Milky Way. The great belt of Orion shone conspicuously in the east, and Sirius blazed a living gem more to the south. I looked for Mars, and soon found him farther to the north, a large red star, amongst the white of the encircling constellations.

Professor Gazen was quite alone in his observatory when I arrived, and busily engaged in writing or computing at his desk.

"I hope I'm not disturbing you," said I, as we shook hands; "I know that you astronomers must work when the fine night cometh."

"Don't mention it," he replied cordially; "I'm observing one of the nebulas just now, but it won't be in sight for a long time yet."

"What about this mysterious light on Mars. Have you seen anything of it?" Gazen laughed.

"I have not," said he, "though I did look the other night."

"You believe that something of the kind has been seen?"

"Oh, certainly. The Nice Observatory, of which Monsieur Perrotin is director, has one of the finest telescopes in existence, and Monsieur Javelle is well-known for his careful work."

"How do you account for it?"

"The light is not outside the disc," responded Gazen, "else I should ascribe it to a small comet. It may be due to an aurora in Mars as a writer in Nature has suggested, or to a range of snowy Alps, or even to a bright cloud, reflecting the sunrise. Possibly the Martians have seen the forest fires in America, and started a rival illumination."

"What strikes you as the likeliest of these notions?"

"Mountain peaks catching the sunshine."

"Might it not be the glare of a city, or a powerful search-light-in short, a signal?"

"Oh dear, no," exclaimed the astronomer, smiling incredulously. "The idea of signalling has got into people's heads through the outcry raised about it some time ago, when Mars was in 'opposition' and near the earth. I suppose you are thinking of the plan for raising and lowering the lights of London to attract the notice of the Martians?"

"No; I believe I told you of the singular experience I had some five or six years ago with an old astronomer, who thought he had established an optical telegraph to Mars?"

"Oh, yes, I remember now. Ah, that poor old chap was insane. Like the astronomer in Rasselas, he had brooded so long in solitude over his visionary idea that he had come to imagine it a reality."

"Might there not be some truth in his notion? Perhaps he was only a little before his time." Gazen shook his head.

"You see," he replied, "Mars is a much older planet than ours. In winter the Arctic snows extend to within forty degrees of the equator, and the climate must be very cold. If human beings ever existed on it they must have died out long ago, or sunk to the condition of the Eskimo."

"May not the climate be softened by conditions of land and sea unknown to us? May not the science and civilisation of the Martians enable them to cope with the low temperature?"

"The atmosphere of Mars is as rare as ours at a height of six miles, and a warm-blooded creature like man would expire in it."

"Like man, yes," I answered; "but man was made for this world. We are too apt to measure things by our own experience. Why should we limit the potentiality of life by what we know of this planet?"

"In the next place," went on Gazen, ignoring my remark, "the old astronomer's plan of signalling by strong lights was quite impracticable. No artificial light is capable of reaching to Mars. Think of the immense distance and the two atmospheres to penetrate! The man was mad, as mad as a March hare! though why a March hare is mad I'm sure I don't know."

212 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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