Mars, Earth - Closest Approach in Recorded History
Summary: Email claims that Earth and Mars will have the closest approach in recorded history in August and will be a spectacular site for stargazers (Full commentary below.)
Status: Was true in 2003, but is now hopelessly outdated.
Example:(Submitted, August 2008)
Subject: FW: MARS APPROACHING
Thought this is interesting enough to pass around
IT OUGHT TO BE SOMETHING TO SEE!
Once in a lifetime...
The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!
This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that
will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth
in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.
The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of - 2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification
Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye .
Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.
By the end of August when the two planets are
closest , Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its
highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty
convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.
Share this with your children and grandchildren.
NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
An email that has circulated during July and August for several years is again hitting inboxes in 2009. The message informs recipients that the planet Mars will be passing very close to Earth in August. While this information was valid back in 2003, it is totally inaccurate for 2009. One of the 2009 incarnations of the hoax consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation that provides basically the same information as contained in the above email along with several more photographs of Mars
Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Claims that Mars will pass close to Earth in August 2009 are untrue
The year is not specifically mentioned in the message and a great many recipients therefore assume that the message refers to August, 2009. Virtually identical (and equally misleading) messages were circulating back in July and August 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. The events outlined in the message were more or less true back in 2003 although they were a little hyped even then. According to NASA, on August 27, 2003, Earth and Mars were the closest they have been for around 60,000 years. Mars was indeed a spectacular site in the night sky during several months of 2003.
However, this fact is not quite as earth shattering as you might think. A 2003 NASA article on the subject explains that:
Much has been made of the fact that the August 27th encounter with Mars is the closest in some 60,000 years. Neanderthals were the last to observe Mars so favorably placed. This is true. It's also a bit of hype. Mars and Earth have been almost this close many times in recent history.
And, during 2009, the view of Mars will be far less than "spectacular". During the current mars apparition (period when Mars is visible and well placed for observation from Earth), the planet's closest approach to earth will occur on January 27 2010. On that date, Mars will be over 99 million kilometers from Earth, a lot further from the Earth than it was in 2003, when the distance between the planets was only around 56 million kilometers. Mars expert, Jeffrey D. Beish notes:
Closest approach occurs at 1844 UT on January 27, 2010 (43.8° Ls) with an apparent planetary disk diameter of 14.11'' at a distance of 0.663989469429 astronomical units (AU) or 61,721, 554 miles (99,331,411 km). During closest approach in 2010 the apparent diameter of Mars will be more nearly 2 arcsec smaller than it was at the same period in 2007 and it will be nearly 5 degrees lower in the sky – not great for observing the Red Planet.
This message seems set to keep resurfacing every year and duping a whole new set of recipients into gazing rather fruitlessly at the night sky. But don't despair! Close encounters with Mars are not such uncommon events.
The claim that "NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN!" is misleading. It is true that the next time Mars will be as close to Earth as it was in 2003 will be on August 28, 2287. In the mean time however, there will be plenty of other close approaches, so our children and our children's children are not likely to miss out altogether.
Perhaps by 2287 some of our descendants will be observing the close encounter from the Martian perspective.
A slightly different version of the hoax email:
Subject: 2 MOONS ON 27 AUGUST 2007
27th August 2007, a Monday the Whole World is waiting for.............2 moons on 27th August 2007
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, 2007 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.