Thursday, 3 October 2019

Vegetation on the Moon?

CAPE ARGUS - 1939, March 25

Much progress has been made recent years in the knowledge of lunar changes or happenings. It is now regarded as strongly probable that vegetation exists on the moon – in certain areas.
The most frequent question that all telescopic observers of moon and planets have to answer is: “Does life exist outside our earth?”
To this we can answer, “Most probably, yes,” and explain that life ranges from the lowliest form of vegetation to the sentient animal and any extra-terrestrial form my be entirely distinct from every known earthly species, adapted to its environment and its atmospheric and climatic conditions.
It is now generally accepted that vegetable life exists on Mars. The moon, though so near a neighbor (238 000 miles away) shows scant evidence of any atmosphere, and such vegetation as may exist, is rigorously confined to certain areas. The finest observers, especially Pickering, are unanimous in the opinion that changes on the lunar surface regularly occur which are not due to varying conditions of light and shadow as the sun rises and sets on the moon.
It is difficult to observe the moon with a large telescope without the conviction that it is snow which glitters on the peaks of the lunar Appenines (rising to 21 000 feet) and on the high, irregular, mountainous walls surrounding many of the larger craters. During a telescopic observation of mine on the region of Copernicus I noticed that the area west of the terminator (the sunrise and sunset line) was misty and ill-defined, although higher south the usual hard definition prevailed. After a while the mistiness cleared. The night was brilliant with no cloud or atmospheric veiling.
Recently I was observing the same longitude and again noticed a very distinct mistiness over the great lunar plains of Mare Nubium and Mare Imbrium, where day was just breaking. In an hour clear conditions ensued.
This phenomenon of mist is not uncommon. A year ago, I saw an orange-brown streak on Plato’s west wall in strong contrast to the white-grey-black monotones of the lunar surface. Later observations saw this colour streak extending north to south on rampart and descending east to Plato’s floor. This was soon confirmed by the fine observer. Fox, who for some months followed this colour streak. This very distinct streak appeared exactly as vegetation should behave to complete its cycle of germination, growth and fructification in 14¾ days. It has now become very faint, but a return to the seeming expansion of December, 1937, may recur.
Aristarchus is the brightest lunar area; its east wall shines an unbroken white under a low rising sun. As the sun mounts five radial bands of brownish hue develop on the east wall, the two southernmost extending across the volcanic hillside towards Herodotus. Very careful investigations by Ball, Burrell, Fox, and myself prove that these bands are not due to shadow effects; they develop under the growing heat of lunar day. Their colour and soft, irregular outline hint plainly at some lichenous-like growth, which has developed quite recently.
One of the favourite regions for telescopic examinations is Mare Crisium, a beautiful mountain-encircled plain towards the moon’s west edge. A few years ago, to my astonishment, I discovered a large oblong enclosure, bounded by mountainous hills, with well-defined craterlets at corners and on walls, also on the plain in immediate environment. With the assistance of Ball and Burrell, 20 craterlets were son plotted in this enclosure’s proximity. This “trapezium” and its neighbouring craterlets had never appeared on any lunar chart.
Dr. Robinson suggested to me that this area had been concealed by low-lying mists, an agreement with Pickering’s statement, founded on his own acute observations, that these local mists are not uncommon on the moon. This region is being carefully observed by trained members of the B.A.A., who all employ telescopes of large aperture.
The lately deceased Pickering, when at the Arequipa station of the Harvard Observatory, was able to obtain sequences of clear nights, which resulted in the very definite deductions embodied in his “Moon,” drawn from the critical changes he witnessed on the lunar surface, which could only be ascribed to a lunar vegetation, changes which he actually photographed. Our small contribution establishes the truth of the logical theories laid down by Pickering, and it is through the imp of the perverse who governs our climate that we are prevented from obtaining closer and fuller confirmations.
It must not be forgotten that the moon is a real world clearly open to intimate inspection; its magnificent mountain ranges and rocky ravines are almost appalling in their solitary grandeur; its surface is seamed by many clefts and pitted with craterlets. Vast open plains alternate with walled plains whose beetling precipices tower thousands of feet above the rugged floor of these formations, which dominate with chaotic majesty the wild lunar scenery, the very apotheosis of eternal solitude and desolation. – “Manchester Guardian” copyright.

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