[“Journal of Observations”]

"Diario di osservazioni"

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli,
1878
Fondo G. V. Schiaparelli, cart. 491, fasc. 1
170 x 210 mm
Historical archives of INAF-Brera Astronomical Observatory, Milan

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, director of the Brera Observatory: a “classical” astronomer, committed to applying the methods of celestial mechanics to the calculation of planetary orbits, periods of comets, radiant points of Meteors, discoverer of the cometarian origin of the so called “shooting stars”, great explorer of Mars.
Angelo Secchi, the father of astrophysics, the experimenter of new techniques, the author of a revolutionary stellar classification.
Two scientists so different, sometimes critical of their respective research, but two men bound by “reverent respect”, mutual esteem, long friendship.
It was in fact on the Meteorological Bulletin of the Roman College Observatory, edited by Secchi, that Schiaparelli published in 1866-67 his studies on the cosmic origin of the meteor showers, in the form of letters addressed to the Jesuit colleague; Secchi asked Schiaparelli to set up “a small Italian Astronomical society” in 1866 and to correct the drafts and to care the publication of his ‘The Stars’ in 1877, in Milan.
Finally, in the pages of his journal of observations, the “instrument” that Schiaparelli most cared about and exclusively considered as his own, where non-astronomical annotations are extremely rare, he spends his last words to remember the friend Astronomer.
It is on February 26, 1878: with small ink characters, in the middle of the page of the journal (page on the right), Schiaparelli notes: “While I was making these observations at 7:15 average time of Rome Father Secchi died. Italy is now deprived of its main and most authoritative astronomer. ”
From the roofs of Brera he had just observed the distant Neptune and drew the Red Mars (page on the left), noting: “Mirabile dictu! The Indus communicates with the Ganges and the Sabaean Gulf. “

Agnese Mandrino, INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera