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August 27, 2010 • News

No, Despite What That Email Says, Mars Won’t Be Riding Down the Highway in White Ford Bronco!

Has it REALLY been seven years already? Back on August 27th of 2003, Mars came the closest it had to the earth in 60,000 years. It was an amazing astrological event and I watched through my telescope and had a wonderful time waking up my young kids and sharing it with them (and no, they don’t remember it anymore).

But even back then misinformation was spread: the truth was that as Mars came ~56 million kilometers from Earth it would be approximately 1/75 the size of a full moon, so using a 75x telescope lens you would get a wonderful view of the red planet.

But as the information spread in yet another version of ‘internet telephone’, people forgot about the telescope or magnification and simply said that Mars would be the same size as the full moon! It wasn’t true back then, and is certainly not true today. Here is some information from NASA:

On August 27, 2010, Mars will be 314 million km from Earth, about as far away as it can get. Mars will shine in the western sky after sunset like a tiny red star of ordinary brightness. If you didn’t know it was there, you probably wouldn’t notice.

Like I assume many of us do, I get well-meaning but completely fictitious emails from my elderly parents and relatives on pretty much a weekly basis. Since they know I have a telescope and that my kids like looking through it, I should not have been surprised to get the same email today again … and again … and again!

Here is the email that went out back then … which is the same one I got forwarded to me today:

Dear All,

Don’t miss to see – TWO MOON ON 27 AUGUST*

*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 of 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

So what WILL Mars look like compared to the Moon tonight?

As NASA said, it is about as far away as possible. So enjoy your night, I hope the weather is pleasant where you are, and if you see two brightly glowing objects of similar size in the sky tonight, I hope John Williams’ music is playing in the background!

Source: NASA , and also Florida Stars

One Response to " No, Despite What That Email Says, Mars Won’t Be Riding Down the Highway in White Ford Bronco! "

  1. Joel McLaughlin says:

    They talked about this on a local radio show yesterday.

    Astronomy is the most often misunderstood thing I know. To some, they just can’t fathom or understand simple things like when astronomers say something is the closest it’s ever been, it usually means it is….but how CLOSE isn’t something they ask. They usually assume bad things when they think <> is passing close to the Earth when close is about 1 million miles (which in astronomical terms is VERY close).

    Phil Plaitt’s Bad Astronomy is a great site and one I use often when I hear someone worrying about a Asteroid or some other thing possibly destroying the Earth.

    http://www.badastronomy.com

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