Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints. Today’s guestbook entry is from February 24, 1922, when Mentore Maggini made a visit.
Next to his name, Mentore Maggini (1890-1941) wrote, “R. Osservatorio Astrofisico – Catania.” (Royal Astrophysical Observatory, Catania). He was an astronomer who studied binary stars and the Martian surface.
In 1926, he would be named director of the Observatory of Collurania (in Teramo), where he would remain until his death in 1941.
In his research on Mars, he focused on Martian cartography. Among his work, he studied the psycho-optic theory of Martian canals (i.e. the tendency of the eye to create connections between nearby points) at a time when most people thought the canals were real.
He was among the first to do photometry using photoelectric cells, which he applied to the study of variable stars.
He wrote a popular children’s book on astronomy, Il Libro di Urania, which was published posthumously in 1943.
The crater Maggini on Mars is named in his honor.