From: Geoff Haines-Stiles <>
Subject: FROM THE STRATOSPHERE TO YOU! Mars readings (fwd)
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 1996 05:32:18 -0700 (PDT)

>From PBS/NASA-TV procedure to substance. Astronomy educator April Whitt 
(Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta) and our airborne observer during the 
Kuiper shows, circulated this material, which has a nice sci-fi feel, as 
well as helping set "the search for life" in context. Thanks, April.

Geoff Haines-Stiles

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 1996 16:04:19 -0500
From: April Whitt <>
Subject: Mars readings


>From Jay Pasachoff's textbook Understanding Astronomy, chapter 10: The
Earth as a Planet.

Report of the Martian Academy of Science

For centuries we have known Earth as an interesting object in our sky;
sometimes it is the mornig star and sometimes it is the evening star.
Since it is an inner planet for us, Earth is always within a few hours
of rising of setting, so we can never observe it high overhead in a
dark sky and through the minimum amount of our atmosphere.

The major problem we have in observing Earth is not our atmosphere but
its own. Often major portions of earth are covered with white clouds
that prevent us from seeing the surface.

When we can see throught he clouds,we see that Earth is mostly covered
with a blue-greenish dard substance o much lower albedo than the
clouds. A smaller fraction of the surface is covered
withlighter-colored materials, and this lighter material changes in
color somewhat with the seasons. As springtime comes to each
hemisphere of Earth the lighter material becomes greenish.

There ismuch less of the life-giving carbon-dioxide on Earth than
there is in our own atmosphere. But oxygen, a gas that is deadly to
us, does exist by itself in Earth's atmosphere, bot as O2 and O3.
Earth has ploar caps, one in the north and another in the south and
their sizes change with the season. Perhaps they are tremendous
reservoirs of carbon dioxide in the form of ice (frozen CO2 ), as are
our polar caps. Some Martian scientists, but a minority, think that
the polar caps on Earth might partially be made of frozen dihydrogen
oxide (H2O), which we call "wet ice" and are planning to take better
spectra to study this possibility. They claim that their infrared
measurements of Earth's temperature indicate that the planet is too
warm for ordinary carbon dioxide ice.

Earth is accompanied by a remarkable moon, called Selene. Selene is
not too much smaller than the planet Mercury, and ranks in size with
the giant moons of Jupiter and Saturn. This is unusual because Earth
is a martian planet rather than a giant planet, and planets oridnarily
have moons that are only about one-thousandth of their sizes. Selene,
on the contrary, is approximately one-fourth the diameter of its
primary, and as much as 1/81 of the primary's mass. The seasonal
changes that we have detected on Earth have not been seen on Selene.

For the last few years, we have sent a series of rockets to Earth. The
Terra 1 and Terra 2 did not succeed in traveling the long distance to
Earth, but Terra 3 flew by at a adistance of 8 billion centirams
(remember that 1 centiram is the length of the left antenna of Queen
Schrip, who reigned from the year 15,363 to 16, 437) and suceeded in
getting a series of photographs from close up. They showed a planet
that is mostly covered with maria, which correspond to the darker
areas. Radar reflectivities indicate that they may be covered with
dihydorgen oxide. There are mountain areas and very few craters. The
largest peaks are smaller than our own volcanoes, and the largest
canyon, in a raised land mass that extends from slightly above the
equator far into the southern hemisphere, is about the size of our own
Great Canyon. Since Earth is a larger planet than ours, these canyons
and mountains are smaller than ours with respect to the size of the

Terra 4 went into orbit around Earth, and took a series of photographs
over its ten phobon lifetime (one phobon, of course, is the length of
time it takes for Phobos to orbit the Mars, and corresponds to about
1/100 of an Earth selenth.) Four relatively smooth areas were chosen
as prime landing sites.

Terra 5 attempted a crash landing on Earth last year, and succeeded in
slowing its velocity as it passed through Earth's considerable
atmosphere. But contact wiht it was lost a few seconds after landing'
perhaps it was covered oer by whatever materials makes up the greenish
areas. Those of our scientists who say that is material is dihydrogen
oxide claim that this mysterious disappearance supports their theory.

We have not been able to establish the presence of any intelligent
life on the planet. Indeed, the presence of life would seem to depend
on establishing that for Earth, as on the Mars, the seasonal blowing
of dust that takes place provides shelter from solar radiation for
individual Earthians, assuming that they, as we, cannot stand exposure
to sunlight. We look for signs of Earthian work. Some of our
intelligence analysts think that they have detected a long serpentine
streak traversing one of the continents and some signs of a
checkerboard pattern on a large scale, which could indicate the
presence of agriculture. But these detections are marginal, and must
be checked further.

(same source) A somewhat later look in the Martian archives might turn
up the following ideas, as reported by Paul A. Weiss of the
Rockefeller Institute.

A summary of our report is that we have discovered lifeon Earth! It is
the discovery of the millenium for us Martians. From a height of 5
million rams, we could see streaks of light moving like waves across
the landscape, often in two channels right next to each other, flowing
in opposite directions. When we came closer, we saw that each luminous
knot had an independent existence and had two white lights in front
and two red lights behind. They were phototactic, attracted by a
flickering light source. But rather than rush into the source, they
stopped just short of it and formed a crystalline array. Then they
remained immobile, perhaps sleeping. Their luminous activity

Inside these Earthians, we eventually discovered even smaller objects,
probably parasites. They are lodged, for the most part, in te interior
of the Earthians. They never stray far off fromthe Earthians, even
when they are disgorged, sothey must be dependent on the Earthians for
sustenance. The parasites are more numerous in larger hosts; since
host size indicates host age, the accessory bodies obviously multiply
inside the hosts as the latter grow.

We can show that the Earthians are alive, for they metabolize by
taking in sustenance suckinin through tubes inserted in their rears.
They give off wastes mostly as gas and smoke. Some areas of Earth are
positively fouled with the waste products. We also noted signs of
grooming, with a wiping motion, but only in front. Astonishingly, this
was started and stopped in sychrony by all members of the population,
which may imply that the Earthians have brains.

And a poetry offering: This one's on the album "William Shatner Live",
on Lemli Records, copyright 1970 by Jane Hipolito and Willis E.
McNelly (back when albums were records, not CDs):


He was one of Bradbury's kind of people,
Who early took to wings. 
Jumped first from the barn roof at home,
Then the church steeple, 
And when his bones were finally out of slings
Took off from Baldy's snowy dome, 
Landing this time in a tree,
And still denied the pull of gravity.

Instead he dug the pull of endless time and space.
Gazed nightly at the stars, read Verne and Wells,
Became an active flying ace,
And dreamed of setting foot on - where else? - Mars!
Or was it old Barsoom?
He watched the astronauts return two times 
>From walking on the Moon
And swore he'd break the bonds that held him.

And then one day They came. Out of the bog
Behind the Carter place. Took himand his dog
For one swift silent spin in outer space,
To Mars itself and back again.
I only know they disappeared one day
And were gone a long, long time away.
Since they came back, they mostly sit and look
At the green trees, the garden, and the brook.