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Mars Email Hoax

Brian Neudorff @ 7:00 am August 26th, 2007 · No Comments

I guess some things never get old and this email seems to be one of them. Every year since 2003 the weather office here at JET-TV have received this email. Here is what the 2007 version of the email looks like:

*Two moons 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.

The Mars Hoax email first appeared in 2003. On August 27th of that year, Mars really did come historically close to Earth. But the email’s claim that Mars would rival the Moon was grossly exaggerated. Every August since 2003, the email has staged a revival; it is as wrong now as it was then.

One version of the 2003 email stated that Mars would resemble a full Moon when viewed at 60x power through a backyard telescope. Even that is wrong: While it is true that Mars can be magnified enough to illuminate a Moon-sized patch of retina, the human brain doesn’t register a Moon-sized object. The brain takes into account context and surroundings when it estimates the size of an object–hence the Moon illusion. Nothing seen through the narrow corridor of a telescope’s eyepiece feels or looks as large as a full Moon.

There will be a close encounter of Mars in December. Earth and Mars are converging, and right now the distance between the two planets is shrinking at a rate of 22,000 mph–or about 25 miles per sentence. Ultimately, this will lead to a close approach in late December 2007 when Mars will outshine every star in the night sky. Of a similar encounter in the 19th century, astronomer Percival Lowell wrote the following: “[Mars] blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself.”

Contrary to the above rumor, though, Mars is never going to outshine the Moon. Read the rest of Mars’ close encounter over at NASA.com

(Hat Tip: Alan Sullivan)

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Tags: Misc Weather · Space News · Weather Hoaxes

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