Sometimes, it surprises you to come across a piece of history. Sometimes, it towers over you like a 40 foot tall telescope.
It's the Merz-Repsold telescope. Standing underneath Schiaparelli's half-meter refractor. I feel small. Small in the same way as when you see a suspension bridge or skyscraper from directly below. But there's something more mysterious about this massive structure, five meters above my head. It's the distance and the largeness of the telescope's targets. Details on Mars never seen before. Brass gears and dials, glass and refraction create a spaceship, zooming through the atmosphere in the center of a Milan that was not yet light polluted.
Schiaparelli spent four years mapping canals and oceans, what we now know are canyons and mountains. Once you've spent time trying to make out the detail on Mars with your telescope, you'd understand. 200 times closer, it looks like a smudge. The atmosphere actually more like a dense ocean, blurring the view. But with these machines, we continued that very human goal of decoding the sky above, somehow with the feeling that the answers we find could change humanity forever.
The cancals, was there water on Mars? Life? The debate rages today. These ideas fresh on the stage contributed to the age of science fiction in literature! Did you know that your telescope could write a book?