Extraterrestrial Skies and Landscapes Depicting the Earth, 1877

JF Ptak Science Books  Post 2520

Earth from other Planets MArs

I was struck by these images of the Earth as seen from other planets (and the Moon) in our solar system, mainly because I had associated at least one of them to Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), who I thought originated the view.  But that is not the case, evidently, as this Scientific American article appears November 23, 1877, and the Flammarion book in which it appears (Astronomie Populaire) was not published until 1880.  This is interesting in general because views of the Earth from other exact locations in the solar system are not common at this point in the late 19th century, and as can be seen in the illustrations there were some enormous (?) leaps of faith, though I am not sure how long a jump it would take to show a vegetative Mars in 1877.  

Certainly the depiction of the Earth from an unspecified distance and location was very highly practiced in the history of astronomy, stretching back many centuries, but there is very little found for depicting an extraterrestrial prior to 1900–seeing the Earth in the sky with boots-on-the-extraterrestrial-ground is very uncommon. 

This is really just a somewhat-related smidgen of a larger discussion on the history of the plurality of worlds and life elsewhere in the universe, an idea that is ancient, reaching back to the Greeks, and comes into play here with the Earth-like environment of Mars pictured above.  These views are sympathetic to an idea of another set of observational eyes looking up at the Earth as Earthlings might do in looking at Mars, a very individualistic view of the night sky, making it personal by setting the event very close to the ground of the planet/Moon rather than a view that was set nearby in space.  This is also conducive to the imagination of 1877 for visualizing not only the existence of life elsewhere, but also of interplanetary travel.  

The somewhat-odd thing here is that it seems as though the Scientific American article was published independent of the famous reports of Giovanni Schiaparelli1 (“direttore del R. Osservatorio astronomico di Brera in Milano” ) which appeared in 1877/8 following his historic observations of Mars at the 1877 opposition  and in which he used the word “canali” which would later be mis-interpreted/-used as “canals” (when it was intended as “channels”).   Schiaparelli adopted new terminology for his great adventures on the surface of Mars including “ocean”(“the names I adopted will in no way harm the cold and rigorous observations of facts”2) though he did not intend for them to be used literally.  (He had in fact used the word “canali” as early as 1859, a yer after Angelo Secchi had employed the term.) Also the great William Whewell had hypothesized the existence of oceans and mountains and the possibility of life on Mars earlier than that, in 1854; and Anthony Proctor contributed greatly to the life issue with his work and map (featuring continents and oceans) in 1867, so I think that the presentation of the Earth-friendly vision of the Martian surface in the Scientific American could well have been accomplished independently of the Schiaparelli observations of 1877.  The idea of organized and technological life took off shortly after this in a sort of Martian-life-mania3, quickly reaching great new heights in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds in 1897, when Martians needed to have their own very destructive look-see of their own extraterrestrial sky.  It wasn’t unti the 20th century, really, when it became more a more common/popular thing to see the Earth imagined from a viewpoint on another world.  

All this said, I do not know when the first illustration like this–a view of the Earth in an extraterrestrial sky with surrounding landscape–appears in print.  

 A modern view, from NASA, Curiosity‍‍ , “first view of the Earth and the Moon from the surface of Mars(January 31, 2014)”:Earth from other planets  modern MArs

[Source: http://j.mp/1JgIGuM]

Earth from other planets Mercury

And a very hospitable Jupiter:

Earth from other planets Jupiter

Earth from other planets Moon




1.  G. V. Schiaparelli’, Atti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei: Memorie della Classe di sdenze fisiche, matematiche e naturali 3:2 (1877-1878): 3-13  The famous map by Nathaniel Green was published soon afterwards, Nathaniel E. Green, ‘Observations of Mars, at Madeira, in August and September 1877’, Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society 44 (1879): 123-40.

2. Dictionary of Scientific Biography, volume 12, pg 161).

3.  Not my term and a good one–found in K. Maria D. Lane, “Mapping the Mars Canals Mania….”, in Imago Mundi, Vol. 58, No. 2 (2006), pp. 198-211.

By: Ptak Science Books
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://j.mp/1JgIGuR

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