15. The Bizarre Summer of 1835
1835 was one of the more bizarre years in the history of the United States. That summer, excitement gripped the country when a New York newspaper, The Sun, announced the recent discovery of life and civilization on the Moon. It began with a newspaper article, the first of six in a series, that was published on August 25th. In it, the newspaper announced that Sir John Herschel, the era’s leading astronomer, had used powerful telescopes to get a clear glimpse of the Moon’s surface.
What Sir John saw was stunning. It astonished him and upended all human knowledge to date. As The Sun described it: “By means of a telescope of immense dimensions and an entirely new principle“, Herschel had discovered planets in other solar system, and established new and revolutionary theories. He had also “solved or corrected nearly every problem of mathematical astronomy“. All of that was just a tip of the iceberg, however: the prominent astronomer had discovered life on the Moon.