Have you heard of Mars coming close this August?.. and looking as big as the moon? Beware!.. the email that told you this is full of rubbish. Though this is a very old ‘forward’.. it seems to have gained in popularity in the recent times..at least with people around me. There are many out there who have taken this forward to be true at face value..this is to all of them. I am quoting a reply by Varun in another mailing list. The contents of the original ‘forward’ are prefixed by a ‘>’.
> *Subject:* First Time in Human History
> *Mars is going to be a second moon of earth for a day. *
> *Hi all,.
> *NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN. *
> *The** Red Planet (MARS)** is about to be spectacular! This month and
> Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the
> closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. *
Great oppositions, as we will call these, occur once every decade or so.
Its not too rare… the opposition of mars occurs about once in every two
years, which is a close approach between earth and mars. The word
“opposition” comes from the fact that on that day, the earth, sun and mars
are almost in a stright line, so the sun and mars are opposite to each
other in the sky on that day. But neither the orbit of earth nor mars is
circular, so the distance between the two planets may be different on each
of these approaches. Once a decade or so, it is closer than most
approaches – this is called a “great opposition”. The last one happened in
2003, if i remember the date right.
> *The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way
> gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be
> 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. *
contradiction ! If astronomers are not sure of orbit as the mail claims
here, then where did the number 2287 come from ?
fact : astronomers do very detailed observations of planets, and the
orbits of planets can be calculated with great accuracy over enormous
periods of time. It is true that the gravity of jupiter perturbs orbits,
but that effect is well measured and well predictable for all the major
planets. Hence, we know exactly where mars will be, on any given date and
> *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
the opposition of mars in 2005 is in november, not august. see for example
the site explains clearly how the 2003 approach was closer than the 2005
approach of mars.
> object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will
> 25.11 arc seconds wide. By August 27, Mars will look as large as the full
the quoted angular diameter of mars is not true for ANY date this year.
This can be verified from numersous astronomy software. for a simple, free
software usable online as well as offline, see http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky
(or download “home planet” from the same site)
> moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot.*
the moon subtends an angular diameter of about 30′ (called 30 arc minutes)
in the sky, which is 0.5 degrees. The quoted angular diameter of mars is
29″ (29 arc seconds, i.e 29/60 arc minutes, or about 0.01 degrees. thats
60 times smaller than the moon.
And of course, the true diameter of mars at oppositions this year is about
20 arc seconds, or 90 times smaller than the moon !
> *At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach
> 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
the opposition of mars this year is in early november, not august. Only in
late october – early november 2005 will you see mars overhead at midnight.
in other times in 2005, it ill be overhead at other times – NOT midnight.
> at 12: 30a.m. That’s pretty convenient to see something that no human
> 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.*
mars will keep becoming brighter, true, but it will become brightest in
late oct / early november, not in august. If you are lucky to have clear
skies, you can go out and look for yourself !
closest to earth in a few centuries or not, the beautiful red neighbour of
earth is always a good sight to see !
This forward even made it to the newspapers! Gujarat Samachar had carried it on its front page. I came to know about this thanks to this email. Some sense prevailed with the newspaper publishing an apology later on. This goes to show the level of science reporting in the country.The correct info is just a click away and yet ..
If you want to know the truth about what mars is doing this year, go here.
update : I am getting 3/4 hits from google for this particular post with pple searching for “mars as big as moon” and so on. Irrespective of whether these people believe this or not..the fact seems to be that this email is very popular ..so I appeal to u pple that u send a clarification to who ever sent you the original ‘wrong’ email. Also, good old BadAstronomy has a post on this.
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