Mars Attacks

I received this email about Mars (see below) from someone close to me… while its appeared to be spectacular, I questioned its authenticity.  Thus, I did a little research using sites such as NASA and UrbanLegends…  As you could probably guess, this assertion about Mars is not really true.  First of all, this situation where the orbit of Mars tracked very close to Earth occurred in August 2003.  Second of all, this close orbit occurs about every 10 years.

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 be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10pm and reach its azimuth at about 3am. 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 12:30am.

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.

We always remember the sage wisdom of our parents: “If the deals seems to good to be true, it probably is”… the Internet corollary: “If the information seems too spectacular, do a little research on it before passing it around as gospel.”

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