So tonight’s the night. Tonight at 12.30am, according to the hoax email that has been circulating, “Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth.” That is wrong.
At 12.30am, the planet Mars is actually more than 100 million miles from the earth, three times the distance from what is in the hoax email.
Another line from the email: “It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.” This is incorrect as well.
On the 27th, with Mars over 100 million miles away, to the naked-eye it looks just like any other star in the sky, it’s that far away. The moon, on the other hand, is only 240 thousand miles away – much closer than Mars – and takes up more area in the night sky.
There is no way that Mars will ever be “as large as the full moon to the naked eye” from earth. Never. Which means the next part of the email: “it will look like the earth has 2 moons.” must be incorrect as well. Which it is.
Here’s a fact: at 12.30am on the 27th, our moon isn’t even “full.” Full Moon this month is the next morning, the 28th, at 6.35am (and will be in the earth’s shadow).
Here’s another fact: at 12.30am on the 27th, Mars is not even above the horizon! How can it look like there are two full moons, when both objects aren’t even in the sky?
(By the way. 12.30am where on earth? The email never says that. Eastern US time? In London? In New Delhi? Perth?)
Here are a couple of images of the sky on the 27th of August…
(The Moon in the southern sky at 12.30am. Mars is nowhere to be seen)
(Mars the eastern sky on August 27th)
There are some interesting Mars facts, despite the hoax email.
On the 27th, Mars rises at the same time as the star Aldebaran, in the constellation Taurus. Aldebaran is a reddish colored star, and is regarded as the “eye of the Bull” of the Taurus constellation. With Mars next to it, it becomes the”second eye,”making a striking pair in the eastern sky.
In addition, the nearly global-wide dust storm on Mars is subsiding, allowing the rovers Spirit and Opportunity to begin working again. Because of the dust storms, both rovers had to hunker down and conserve as much power as they could, lest they get too cold and stop working forever. Some days they didn’t even contact Earth, they were in such a power-saving mode. Fortunately the storms are mostly over, and both rovers can resume their explorations of the Red Planet.
For other information about Mars and the hoax email, please check out one of the links below…
Let’s Talk Mars in August
Mars Viewing? Not this Summer
Oh yes, there is one small, partial fact in the hoax email: Mars will be “brightest in the night sky” – in December. At that time, when Mars is at opposition, it will “blaze forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself.” (quote by Percival Lowell).