Mars approaching! or Two Moons on 27 August

posted: 3386 days ago, on Monday, 2008 Aug 18 at 09:15
tags: astronomy, Mars.

Have you recently received an e-mail that has the subject line "Two Moons on 27th August"? Or perhaps "The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!"?

The e-mail continues:

This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that
will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in
recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is
in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on
Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be
certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth
in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it
happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when
Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and
will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in
the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9
and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest
75-power magnification.

Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.. Mars will be easy to spot. At the
beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m.
and reach its azimuth at about 3 a..m.
By the end of August when the two planets are
closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its
highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty
convenient to see something that no human being has
seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at
the beginning of August to see Mars grow
progressively brighter and brighter throughout the
month.
Share this with your children and grandchildren.

NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

Another version of the e-mail goes:

27th Aug the Whole World is waiting for.............
Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will
look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultivate on Aug.
27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles off earth. Be sure to watch the sky
on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons.

The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

"Cultivate"? WTF?

Sounds wonderful!! And indeed, Mars is a very, very interesting place, and right at this moment there are space craft studying Mars up-close. The Phoenix Mars Lander is digging into the Martian soil as we speak, and discovering new things every day.

But these e-mails are wrong. In many many ways.

  1. Mars will NOT be very close to Earth on August 27.
  2. Mars will NOT be very bright.
  3. And Mars will NEVER be as big as the Full Moon!

Yes, in 2003 Mars was close. And in 2005, Mars was much brighter than usual. But this e-mail is still doing the rounds.

You CAN see Mars this month; it's visible just after sunset in the west along with brilliant Venus and Mercury. Check out the August edition of Southern Sky News for more details on how to see the planets.

Happy star gazing!

Links

  1. Hubble Space Telescope images of Mars
  2. Phoenix Mars Lander
  3. Mars close to Earth (at snopes.com)
  4. Beware the Mars Hoax (NASA)

nothing more to see. please move along.