The Mystery Ship

By L. Taylor Hansen

Winter, 1949

No one doubts the reality of the mysterious space ship seen over Alabama. But did it come form Mars?

Of what origin is this “Mystery Ship?” Russian? That would be crediting them with an enormous engineering advantage over us. But if not, who then? Only two classes of persons would be willing to make the next guess-Mars. Those two classes might include astronomers (never for publication of course, only off the record), and science-fiction fans.

On the night that this story appeared in the newspapers, I looked up the authority on Mars-Lowell.

Percival Lowell established Lowell’s Observatory in the highlands of Arizona during those years at the turn of the century when the western skies were still comparatively free of the soot and grime which churns them up today and which continues to pile an ever-mounting curtain of obscuring matter between our telescopes and the objects which they seek. Every astronomer worthy of the name admits that Lowell had an advantage over them, even with his smaller telescope. In the rarest of fleeting seconds, or split seconds, when the obscuring film would clear, they too have seemed to catch a glimpse of the fine-pencilled lines which astronomer Percival Lowell brazenly called “canals”.

To Lowell, these waterways which conducted the melting water from the polar caps down to and across the equator so that the deserts could flush green in the Martian springtime, could not be the work of chance. If they had been the work of chance, he argued, they would no climb from the swamps about the edge of the polar caps to the highlands of the deserts (comparative highlands since there are no mountains on Mars), nor would they cross the equator into the opposite hemisphere.

As he continued to view Mars, a still further conviction came to him. One can see it grow in his published works. These canals were turned off and on. One faded away and another came into view. He began to compute the time. One set was closed off for six Martian years (or twelve of our years) and another set turned on to service the same area.

But what did Lowell have to say about flying things-and lights? After explaining that upon the moon the tops of its sharp peaks catch and hold the sunlight before the rest of the mountain is lighted, so that the peak seems to be a detached light on the rim for a time, Lowell continues on page 100 of Mars And Its Canals:

“Common upon the face of the Moon, excrescences of the terminator 9rim) are rare on Mars. The first ever seen was detected by a visitor at the Lick Observatory in 1888. Since then they have repeatedly been noticed both at Lick and elsewhere. But although observers are now on the watch for them, they are not very frequently chronicled because not of everyday occurrence. Much depends upon the opposition; some approaches of the planet proving more prolific of them than others.”

Lowell continues to describe one such patch of light which could safely be relegated to the probability that it was a large dust storm, but his second description is more interesting.

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