The Mars tale that just won’t die.


Twice in 24 hours now I have received copies of a powerpoint show going on about the close approach of Mars. It says:

Check it out, guess no one will get much sleep in August. 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 whenMars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth andwill be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9and 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 thebeginning 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 prettyconvenient 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

Folks, please. PLEASE stop this one in its tracks!

It was 2003 when Mars made it’s closest approach. So if you missed it, you will never see it again – though it will be close to as big and bright in 2018.

I love the somewhat misleading line “At a modest 75-power magnification, Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.” Technically this is true. Mars was ~25 arcsec in Aug 2003, about 1/75th as wide as the moon, so at 75x it would look, through a scope, as large as the moon naked eye. But remember, even the moon ain’t that big – you can cover it with an aspirin held at arms length. Try it.

Anyway, most people don’t have a scope, and that line often gets passed on without the first part – so people think Mars will appear suddenly in the sky on Aug 27th as large as the moon!


So if someone sends you this, tell them they missed it years ago, but if they want to see something in the sky, Saturn is verry pretty right now, and Jupiter will be well placed in Late summer.

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