Sunday, October 30, 2011

Navy Sought Scientific Help In Detecting Radio Signals From Mars

A Military Telegram From August 22, 1924 Appears To Request Assistance
From Civilian Scientists In Tracking Radio Signals Emanating From Mars
For A Decidedly Precise Window Of Time. Was The Navy Aware Of Some-
thing That Eluded All Else? Source.

5 comments:

Autumnforest said...

That is too cool!

James Carlson said...

You might wish to examine an old popular astronomy source at http://books.google.com/books?id=ktYSAQAAMAAJ&pg=PT237&lpg=PT237&dq=%22August+22,+1924%22+Mars&source=bl&ots=32x3-lrrYN&sig=xml5cJ8O1wBy0F4hJDl9MzzDJ9E&hl=en&ei=UM6uTua8DvHXiALYiomzCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22August%2022%2C%201924%22%20Mars&f=false ; the article is entitled "The Opposition of Mars -- August 22, 1924".

Reference states the reason for the date: "The near approach of Mars to the earth in August of this year, the nearest in the past century and probably within the next century, is, in consequence, an event of unusual importance to astronomers. On August 22 the planet will be 34,648,000 miles distant from the earth, and its stellar magnitude will be --27, or a brightness nearly three times that of Sirius."

I think the USN just thought it might represent the best possible attempt to determine if there might be radio communications which, as a result of the near positioning, would be the best possible time to "listen in". They probably just wanted to take advantage of the conditions. In 1924, Mars represented the commonly accepted best target for possible life elsewhere within the solar system, and I think they just wanted to monitor as high a range of signals since the conditions were as ideal as they were likely to get. The article mentions that only 40 years prior, Mars was thought to have great oceans and seas over 3/8ths of the planet, leading to some interesting propositions: "There seemed to be no reason then why Mars should not be inhabited by people very much resembling those on our own planet."

By 1924, astronomers thought that "Mars undoubtedly seems to have life on it." In any case, the article also states that "The astronomical world is looking forward with the greatest eagerness to the approaching opposition of Mars when visual observances and photographs will be made in great numbers in an attempt ot settle what is, from the popular standpoint, the most important problem in astronomy."

Best,
James

James Carlson said...

Naval interest in the event is discussed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Taylor_Pollock#United_States_Naval_Observatory, which relates information associated with "Edwin Taylor Pollock (October 25, 1870 – June 6, 1943) was a career officer in the United States Navy, serving in both the Spanish-American War and World War I." It states:

"Immediately on leaving Samoa, Pollock was appointed superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., replacing outgoing Rear Admiral William D. MacDougal.

"On August 22, 1924, Mars came within 34,630,000 miles (55,730,000 km) of Earth. The US Naval Observatory made no formal observations of the planet, but Pollock and the son of astronomer Asaph Hall ceremonially re-enacted Hall's 1877 discoveries of the moons Phobos and Deimos with his original 17-inch (430 mm) telescope.[34] They also made observations to calculate the masses of the two moons.

"On January 24, 1925, Pollock commanded the dirigible USS Los Angeles on a flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey, to photograph a solar eclipse from an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,400 m). This was the first time an eclipse had been photographed from the air."

The requests for civil assistance may have been initiated by Pollock, who possessed an avid interest related to his command of the United States Naval Observatory.

At http://m.io9.com/5399835/us-armed-forces-listened-for-messages-from-mars, we learn that:

"In 1924, Earth saw its closest Mars opposition in over a century, and some thought our Martian neighbors might use the event to attempt contact. So for one night, US Naval and Army stations scanned the skies for extraterrestrial transmissions.

"On August 22, 1924, the Earth was 55,777,566 km from the Red Planet during the Mars opposition, offering ideal conditions for receiving radio signals from Mars — if anyone happened to be sending them. Amherst College professor David Todd persuaded both the US Army and Navy to listen for messages from Mars. In the telegram above, Edward W. Eberle, the Chief of US Naval Operations, informs Naval stations of the possibility of Martian communications, and instructs them to report any unusual phenomena. For three days, the stations listened for unusual transmissions, but came up empty handed."

So it seems that there's some evidence to support the proposition that the great "listening" was initiated at civilian request, i.e., Amherst College professor David Todd. Neat stuff!

James

James Carlson said...

Naval interest in the event is discussed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Taylor_Pollock#United_States_Naval_Observatory, which relates information associated with "Edwin Taylor Pollock (October 25, 1870 – June 6, 1943) was a career officer in the United States Navy, serving in both the Spanish-American War and World War I." It states:

"Immediately on leaving Samoa, Pollock was appointed superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., replacing outgoing Rear Admiral William D. MacDougal.

"On August 22, 1924, Mars came within 34,630,000 miles (55,730,000 km) of Earth. The US Naval Observatory made no formal observations of the planet, but Pollock and the son of astronomer Asaph Hall ceremonially re-enacted Hall's 1877 discoveries of the moons Phobos and Deimos with his original 17-inch (430 mm) telescope.[34] They also made observations to calculate the masses of the two moons.

"On January 24, 1925, Pollock commanded the dirigible USS Los Angeles on a flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey, to photograph a solar eclipse from an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,400 m). This was the first time an eclipse had been photographed from the air."

The requests for civil assistance may have been initiated by Pollock, who possessed an avid interest related to his command of the United States Naval Observatory.

At http://m.io9.com/5399835/us-armed-forces-listened-for-messages-from-mars, we learn that:

"In 1924, Earth saw its closest Mars opposition in over a century, and some thought our Martian neighbors might use the event to attempt contact. So for one night, US Naval and Army stations scanned the skies for extraterrestrial transmissions.

"On August 22, 1924, the Earth was 55,777,566 km from the Red Planet during the Mars opposition, offering ideal conditions for receiving radio signals from Mars — if anyone happened to be sending them. Amherst College professor David Todd persuaded both the US Army and Navy to listen for messages from Mars. In the telegram above, Edward W. Eberle, the Chief of US Naval Operations, informs Naval stations of the possibility of Martian communications, and instructs them to report any unusual phenomena. For three days, the stations listened for unusual transmissions, but came up empty handed."

So it seems that there's some evidence to support the proposition that the great "listening" was initiated at civilian request, i.e., Amherst College professor David Todd. Neat stuff!

James

James Carlson said...

sorry for the double post -- it wasn't intentional...
James