It has surfaced again. An email message stating that “Mars will be the best in years!” (or words to that effect). As astronomers and scientists, we just shake our heads and say “not again!”
If you have gotten this email (or this year, via SMS), ignore it… delete it… please don’t pass it on. And tell your friends not to pass it on.
I will point you at two pages on our website that we had for both 2005 and 2006, regarding this email.
In 2007, the planet Mars will not be at it’s best for viewing until December. In fact, opposition – when Mars is opposite the sun in our sky – takes place on December 24th. This summer Mars is a dim red starlike object in the morning sky. Sure, amateur astronomers are observing it, but it’s not going to be “spectacular” in August, or any other month this year.
Distance to Mars in August 2003: 56 million km
Distance to Mars in August 2007: >150 million km
So as you can see, Mars isn’t any good this summer.
The only current (and important) news from Mars is that there are large dust storms which are impairing the missions of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. In addition, the Phoenix mission to land on Mars is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral in August (currently scheduled for August 3).
So again, if you receive this email or SMS, or know of someone who has, just ignore it. You’ve been “hoaxed.”
(Update: More Mars information at this recent post)