Tuesday, December 30, 2008

To Mars via The Moon: An Astronomical Story

I'm currently reading To Mars via The Moon: An Astronomical Story, a surprisingly delightful book published in 1911 that is part astronomy, part Utopian fiction and part adventure. It is about a man who makes a spaceship to visit the Moon and Mars. On Mars, he meets his dead son who is reincarnated as a Martian. You can read everything here. Here's an excerpt from Chapter IX:
"Mars revolves on its axis in 24 hours, 37 minutes, and 22 seconds, thus the 'day' on Mars is nearly 38 minutes longer than our 'day.' Phobos revolves round the planet in the very short period of 7 hours, 39 minutes, and 14 seconds, and therefore makes more than three complete revolutions round the planet in the course of a single Martian day. The peculiar phenomena to which this very rapid motion gives rise, and the numerous eclipses which occur, will be matters of great interest to us all when we reach Mars. Our moon, as you know, takes a month to make one revolution round the earth."

"Professor," said John, "when we get to Mars, it will be rather a curious experience for us to see two moons shining in the sky at the same time!"

"My word!" exclaimed M'Allister, "two moons shining at once! If I go out and see such a sight as that, I shall think the whisky has been a wee bit too strong for me!"

"Well," replied John, "if your usual drink has the effect of making you see double, take good advice, and leave the whisky severely alone when you are on Mars, or else you will be seeing four moons all at once, and receive such a shock that you will never get over it!"

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