Oh dear…….is Mars coming close?
Many people have been receiving an email giving the electrifying news that Mars will be a fantastic sight this coming August. Pictures show it looking as large as the Moon. Mars, says the presentation, will be less than 35 million miles away – a state of affairs which won’t happen again until 2287.
So is this all true? Or is it just another internet hoax?
Actually, the presentation we’ve seen is all absolutely true – but for one tiny point…
The close encounter referred to happened in August 2003, when Mars was indeed at its closest for nearly 60,000 years.
Mars approaches Earth every couple of years as the planets orbit the Sun, but doesn’t get unusually close. The next fairly close approach is in 2018.
For Mars observers this will be well worth a look, but it certainly won’t be as spectacular as the presentation makes out. And the dramatic slide shown here, which makes Mars as big as the Moon, fails to point out that you had to magnify Mars 75 times to make it look as big as the Moon does without a telescope!
Mars will appear in the sky. 25 arc seconds is about half the apparent size of Jupiter in the sky, which is the largest that Mars appeared in 2003.
It gets almost as large in 2018 and 2035, however, so if you want to see Mars looking really big through your telescope you’ll have to wait till then.