Mars nearby? Don’t believe it


August 27, 2010 - 12:00 AM

The infamous Mars hoax is circulating again, just as it has since first appearing on the Internet in the summer of 2004.
E-mails winging their ways through cyberspace claim Mars will be closer to Earth tonight than in 60,000 years, including some gaudy predictions that the planet will appear as large as the moon.
Don’t believe it. As frequently happens, information circulating on the Internet is false.
Mars did come historically close to Earth Aug. 27, 2003, at 34.6 million miles, but even then the red planet appeared as nothing more than an extremely bright yellowish-orange star, and not even close to being as large or as bright as the moon.
If you want to see Mars tonight you’ll find it in the early evening west-southwest sky near Venus, which looks like a brilliant star about 45 degrees above the horizon. Since Mars sets about 90 minutes after sundown, the same as Venus, you might need binoculars to see it clearly.
More facts to ponder: Mars is about twice the diameter of the moon, meaning for it to be as large as the moon it would have to be within 476,000 miles of Earth, twice the distance to the moon. Currently Mars is nearly 200 million miles away.
Food for thought: If Mars did loom large in the sky, it wouldn’t portend well for earthlings; it probably would mean Earth had slipped out of its orbit and the end for all of life as we know it.

— Bob Johnso

Note: As an aside, those looking for a little celestial beauty can gaze upon the moon seemingly allied with Jupiter, which appears as a bright star alongside it almost directly overhead near 5 a.m. this week.

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