Cosmic Log - Don’t fall for the old Mars mix-up
It’s prime time once again for e-mails that claim the planet Mars will loom as large as the full moon. Should you believe the claims? This year in particular, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Great Mars Hoax tends to turn up every August, sparking questions like this one from Moe Rickett:
“I read recently that a planet will be orbiting the earth that hasn’t been this close in over 2,500 years and would be very visible to the naked eye. Could you provide me a little insight as to which planet this will be and about what time of the year to expect a good view of this event? … I seem to think it was to be in a very close orbit to earth and it would be the first time in thousands of years it has passed this close, and will not do so again for another several thousand years. Can you please help me with this information so my family and I can view this phenomenon?”
The bad news is that none of the planets is due to have a history-making close encounter this year (although it’s a notable year for Neptune). The good news is that Mars and other planets such as Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are just as visible to the naked eye as they usually are.
Moe is most likely referring to the classic Mars Hoax claim, suggesting that the Red Planet will make the closest approach to Earth ever seen in recorded history. Some accounts say the approach will be so close that it will look as if there are two moons in the night sky on Aug. 27.
This is actually a garbled report referring to Mars’ close encounter in 2003.