1877: Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli maps the planet Mars, discovers channel-like formations he calls "canali"
1894: Misinterpreting "canali" to mean artificially-constructed canals, astronomer Percival Lowell builds his eponymous observatory in Flagstaff, AZ, to continue Schiaparelli's work
1895: Percival Lowell publishes "Mars," in which he "proves" that Mars has an atmosphere and water, and that intelligent life forms have dug a vast network of canals to use melting water from the Martian ice cap for irrigation; Lowell's theories capture the world's imagination
1896-1897: The first UFOs appear over Sacramento, CA, and soon The Great Airship Mystery sweeps the nation
1897: Alleged airship crash in Aurora, TX; charred remains of pilots are rumored to be not of this world
1897: H. G. Wells publishes "War of the Worlds," the first alien invasion story, depicting Martians as super-intelligent drooling cephalopods
|H.G. Wells' Martian cephalopods|
1906: The New York Times reports that Lowell's findings are "absolute proof that there is conscious, intelligent, organic life on Mars"
1906: Having convinced the world and The Times that intelligent life exists on Mars, Lowell begins the search for a mysterious "Planet X" beyond Neptune and Uranus
1908: Lowell completes his vision of Mars' doomed civilization in "Mars as the Abode of Life"
1908: Astronomers at Yerkes Observatory analyze the tail of the approaching Halley's Comet and find it to contain deadly cyanogen gas; because this will be the first time on record earth passes through Halley's tail, Armageddon is predicted
1910: Halley's Comet becomes visible to the naked eye; panic ensues
1910: J. Allen Hynek is born, and when he is a few days old his parents, Joseph and Bertha, take him to the roof of their Chicago home to bask in the light of the comet; somehow, he survives the cyanogen gas, but could he have been pixilated by comet dust?
1911: The New York Times reports on an astounding discovery by Lowell that two vast new canals, "a thousand miles long and twenty miles wide," have been constructed on Mars over the past two years
1912: Professor William Campbell of Lick Observatory theorizes that Martian life takes the form of "One Vast Thinking Vegetable" with a single gigantic eye on an invisible stalk from which it observes activities on earth
1912: Edgar Rice Burroughs publishes "A Princess of Mars," based in part on Lowell's theories; the book is so popular it spawns 10 Mars sequels over the next three decades
|The Mammoth Eye of Mars is watching us...|
1924: Publisher and "father of science fiction" Hugo Gernsback publishes his "Evolution on Mars," based on Percival Lowell's theories, in which he depicts towering Martians with large chests, elephantine noses, and stork-like legs
1930: Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh of Lowell Observatory discovers "Planet X" or Pluto, based in part on Percival Lowell's earlier observations
1932: J. Allen Hynek begins his graduate work in astrophysics at Yerkes Observatory
1938: Orson Welles' "War of the Words" radio broadcast convinces millions that the earth is being invaded by Martians; panic ensues
1950: Clyde Tombaugh takes part in "Project Twinkle," a U.S. government investigation of the "green fireballs" repeatedly sighted in the skies over sensitive defense and atomic research facilities in New Mexico; the sightings are never explained
1952: Dr. J. Allen Hynek's first field assignment for the Air Force's "Project Blue Book" UFO study involves asking professional astronomers whether they have seen UFOs; about 11% of the 55 astronomers Hynek interviews privately admit to seeing a UFO, but only one, Clyde Tombaugh, is willing to say so publicly
1965, 1976: NASA's Mariner fly-by and Viking lander missions return photos of an apparently lifeless planet Mars, finally disproving Lowell's theories