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Mars, Earth - Closest Approach in Recorded History - The Great Mars Hoax


Outline

Message claims that Earth and Mars will have the closest approach in recorded history in August and will be a spectacular sight for stargazers.

Mars Hoax 2013
© Depositphotos.com/Martin Bech

Brief Analysis

The event described did occur back in 2003, but this message is now hopelessly outdated and has morphed into a silly hoax that begins circulating anew in July and August every year. No such close approach will occur in August 2014. And, even in 2003, Mars did not appear as large as the full moon to the naked eye as claimed in some versions of the message. It will never appear that large.

Examples

Subject: FW: Mars

Enjoy!!!

Amazing

This is a 'truly once in a lifetime event' that will occur in August. View the attachment and mark it on your calendars. None of us will live long enough to ever have the chance to view this again. Enjoy!!

Mars Hoax 2013


(The message includes a slide show presentaion with the following text)

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


Subject: Mars - August 27th must see

Get those telescopes out!

Something to look forward to this summer.

Mars


Image of Mars

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

Detailed Analysis

A message that has circulated during July and August since 2005 is again hitting inboxes and social media feeds in 2014. 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 2014. One current incarnation of the hoax consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation that provides basically the same information as contained in the original email along with several more photographs of Mars.

The year is not specifically mentioned in the message and a great many recipients therefore assume that the message refers to August, 2014. Virtually identical (and equally misleading) messages have circulated in July and August every year since 2005. 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.
Mars will certainly not get as close to Earth in August 2014 as it did in August 2003. Mars was closest to Earth for 2014 on April 8 but it was not as close as it has been in other years. According to EarthSky.org, it will still be respectably bright during August. But, of course, it will certainly not look as big as the moon to the naked eye as suggested in some versions of the message. In a write-up about the hoax, EarthSky.org notes:
Mars can never appear as large as a full moon as seen from Earth. The moon will not be full on August 27, 2014 (you might spot it briefly as a thin crescent in the west after sunset, though). And Mars will not be at its brightest or closest in August of 2014, or at any time in 2014.
Thus, like the earlier incarnations of this hoax, the claims in the 2014 versions are nonsense.

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.




Mars

© Depositphotos.com/Tristan3D


Last updated: August 21, 2014
First published: June 14, 2005
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
2003 NASA Article: Approaching Mars
Double moon on August 27?






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