Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginia (18351910), an Italian astronomer. He is best known for his studies of Mars, begun in 1877, in which he described in detail the Martian canals. (Space probes in the 1960's proved that the canalslines that Schiaparelli and others saw through telescopeswere an illusion caused by discolorations on Mars's surface.) Schiaparelli was among the first to observe that some meteor swarms travel in the same orbits as known comets. He was the first to suggest the long-held but now discredited theory that Mercury always keeps the same side toward the sun. Schiaparelli was director of the Brera Observatory in Milan, 18621900.