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Leo Brenner, his Mars channels and the Mars mosses

Occasional travelling might be considered as a means to broaden our personal horizon, e.g. in order to learn that seafaring needn't be pure romance nor pittoresque cliché consisting of white sailors' suits.

[ ocean liner in a shipyard at Mali Losinj (Croatia) ]

Ocean liner in a shipyard at Mali Losinj, Croatia

As we are tardigrade enthusiasts and microscopists we tend to stick to our microscope eyepieces, of course. Moreover, water is essential in order to study our favorite critters. Nevertheless we enjoy being distracted from time to time - and hopefully there will always a back to our beloved microscope - as you will see in the following example.

Thanks to a small booklet published by the Astronomical Society of Mali Losinj (see literature) we became aware of the Mali Losinj astronomy past with its prominent astronomer Leo Brenner. Without those friendly hints one would never guess today that Leo Brenner had mounted a 7 inch front lens diameter refractor on the (still existing) typical mediterranean villa. We have outlined the silhouette of the no more existing telescope on the following photograph by means of a few red lines.

[ Leo Brenner's observatory ]

Sketch of Leo Brenner's observatory on a mediterranean villa at Mali Losinj (in use and physical existence between 1894 and 1908).

From this observatory Leo Brenner studied the planet Mars (among other astronomical objects). Conditions were good as light pollution was non-existent at this time. On the basis of his studies Leo Brenner published a Mars map with no less than 164 (!) linear Mars channels. But, as you will probably know, all those channels turned out as optical illusions later on. Nevertheless, until to the 1960s some scientists continued to assume that at least some "primitive" forms of life might be existent on Mars. In particular lichens and mosses were suggested, because of the channels and the assumed water therein. This is one of the moments when tardiologists tend to awake and start dreaming about potential tardigrade inhabitants on Mars. Sad enough, up to now no one was able to find any moss on Mars - but water appears to be existing. You know: it is our hope that dies last ;-).

It is a pity that Leo Brenner - being a somewhat flamboyant personality - was not so much interested in the creatures living very close to him. Today we know that he was virtually surrounded by potential Mars inhabitants: the tardigrades. We are going to show just one here, found very close to Leo Brenner's former observatory:

[ Marine tardigrade from Mali Losinj ]

Marine tardigrade from the Losinj island (Croatia). Image width ca. 50 µm.

Literature and links

Dorian Božicevic: Lošinj & Astronomy for more than a Century.
Mali Lošinj 2009. ISBN 978-953-55836-2-2.

Wikipedia entry (in German) about  Leo Brenner .

Mars globe  by Leo Brenner depicting his "Mars channels",  named as a "object of month" (somewhere in 2012) by the library of the Vienna University.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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