Breaking News: Mars will not be as big as the Moon in August

Over the past two days I have had two people ask me about an e-mail they recently received dealing with Mars.  The message said that a once in a lifetime event was about to occur, where Mars was going to be a thousand times bigger than it normally is and appear as large as the Moon, this August.  It seems that around this time every year the e-mail is forwarded around in preparation for the big August event.

Simply put, the e-mail is a hoax, but with all rumors and conspiracy theories, there was a slimmer of truth back when it was first written that keeps it popping up in people’s in-boxes today.  The message began as a hoax back in 2003, when in August, Mars made its closest pass to Earth in nearly 60,000 years.  The thing is, that even at this “close” distance, Mars still just appeared as a dot in the sky, all be it a much brighter dot, but still no bigger or brighter than the brightest star in the night time sky.  To capitalize on this event, the e-mail hoax began of Mars being literally as big as the Moon in the night sky every August.

In reality, every two years, Mars and Earth are at opposition, meaning that they are at their closest point to each other in their orbit around the Sun.  This past January and February, Mars and Earth were in opposition, giving some spectacular views of the land features and continents of the planet. (February Mars Report)  Even at this close approach and at 240X magnification, Mars still didn’t appear any bigger than the tip of your pinky finger held away from you at arms length.

Well, I hope this clears up some of the confusion about the e-mail, if any of you receive it.  Until next time, thanks for reading and no matter what your going through in life, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!
Michael

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One thought on “Breaking News: Mars will not be as big as the Moon in August

  1. Pingback: 2010: WordPress Year in Review « Late Night Astronomy

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