It’s late August and like clockwork everyone around the world is being bombarded by a bogus stargazing email, the contents of which have become an urban legend of sorts and never fails to pique peoples interests – I am talking about the annual Mars email hoax landing in your inbox. Every year since 2003 a chain email makes its rounds throughout the internet that touts that on August 27th the planet Mars will be closer than ever before to Earth and it will appear as big as the full moon in the sky to the naked eye.Thank goodness this is not true for if the Red Planet was indeed that close its gravitational pull would wreak havoc with our own planet. But the email is based on some reality.
Mars did in fact have a very close encounter with Earth back in the summer of 2003 when it was only 56 million km away – the closest it had come to us in over 60,000 years. The planet however still only appeared as a very bright reddish star in the sky. But those who had a telescope trained on it noticed that even at low magnification Mars appeared as big as the full moon does through the telescope. This observation was relayed from one amateur astronomer to another that year and it got sent on to other people and so on. Unfortunately, as is the case with many stories, some of the crucial facts were left out along the way and the story got twisted into a hoax.
Read my National Geographic News article published last time this hoax made its rounds on the net.
Also check out the NASA story too.
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