From our Other Members...
No, Mars will not be as big as the Moon this August...
- Category: Other Members
- Created on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 10:02
Just when you thought you’d seen this for the last time, someone else sends you an email asking if it is true that Mars will look as big as the Moon to the naked eye this August. Unfortunately, I have already received two such inquiries this year. You know the proverbial tale of telling something to one person and the story has completely changed by the time it makes it around the room? This is a classic example of that. Unfortunately with the internet these days, the story never dies. So if you receive this email or one like it, PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD IT ON! (I have a feeling we’ll need to repost this article on the front page of our website during the summer every year for the next several years).
So what’s the true story? It goes like this…
Back in August 2003 Mars did make a particularly close pass in relation to its orbit with Earth. Imagine reading an announcement like this (pay particular attention to the parts in italics):
"On August 27, 2003, if you look through a telescope Mars will appear as large as the Moon to the naked eye.”
Pretty straight forward, right? Unfortunately, if you remove the words in italics the entire meaning changes (and because the year ‘2003’ is removed we have to suffer through this every summer).
What is particularly amusing is that people actually think that Mars could get that close to us and we would just calmly watch the event through our telescopes at a star party. Never mind the cataclysmic gravitational effects this event would have on Earth (if we survived at all). I suspect we would be clouded over… or at least the seeing would not be very good because of the heavy winds. =)
For more information, go to http://www.snopes.com/science/astronomy/brightmars.asp.