Drawing of Mars by H. C. Wilson at Goodsell Observatory, Northfield, Minn., Aug. 13, 1892

MarsHerbert Couper (H. C.) Wilson
“Observations of Mars at Goodsell Observatory”
Astronomy and Astro-Physics
W.W. Payne (General Astronomy) and George E. Hale (Astrophysics), editors
Vol. XI, 1892


The appearance of canals on Mars – and the possibility of intelligent life there – fascinated astronomers and the general public around the globe. Observations of the red planet were made from observatories on nearly every continent and while many astronomers spotted the canals, others did not. Even astronomers here in Northfield searched for evidence of the canals through the telescope at Goodsell Observatory.

H.C. Wilson was a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Carleton when he made these drawings of Mars during the 1892 opposition. His sketches were published in Astronomy and Astro-Physics, a journal edited by W.W. Payne, also from the Goodsell Observatory. In his notes, Wilson remarks on the difficulty of identifying the features identified on Schiaparelli’s maps (he did tentatively identify three streaks as canals named by Schiaparelli), and notes that “doubling” was only briefly noticed.

Wilson’s drawings were also published in Volume II of Flammarion’s La Planète Mars et ses Conditions d’Habitabilité.