1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

David Emery

'Close Encounter with Mars' Hoax, 2013 Edition

By August 10, 2013

Follow me on:

Mars August 27 hoaxThe other day while checking my news feed on Facebook I came across this doctored photo, accompanied by the following text:


August 27 at 00:30 Lift up your eyes and look up at the night sky. On this night, the planet Mars will pass just 34.65 million miles from the earth. To the naked eye it looks like two of the moon above the ground! The next time Mars will be so close to the Earth as much as in 2287.

Share the news with your friends, because no one living on this earth has ever seen!

Which sounds like an awfully big deal, astronomically speaking, except it's all a big lie — a lie that has been repeated every year, almost verbatim, for the past nine years running.

In 2003, the orbit of Mars actually did bring it to within 34.8 million miles from Earth, the closest encounter between the two planets in 50,000 years, and the closest any human being will see until 2287. There's no disputing that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Granted, Mars never got so close that it looked like a "second moon," as has been claimed, but it was a brighter-than-usual, redder-than-usual presence in the night sky for a few weeks toward the end of August 2003.

I can't explain why people want to claim every year that it's happening again, but they do. In fact, it's practically an Internet tradition.

Mars Close to Earth on 8/27 (2009)
'Two Moons' on August 27 (2007)
Close Encounter with Mars (2006)
Close Encounter with Mars (2003)

More spacey urban legends:
The "Eye of God" in Outer Space
Real Photo of "Double Sunset" on Mars?
NASA Scientists Confirm Biblical "Missing Day in Time"?
NASA Predicted "Total Blackout" of Earth in Dec. 2012?
Did NASA Astronauts Conduct Sex Experiments in Space?
Oct. 17: The Sun Will "Rise Continuously" for 36 Hours


August 16, 2013 at 2:39 am
(1) Angie Gray says:

This has just come on my facebook feed i was going to share but thought i d check it out first cheers

August 16, 2013 at 11:09 am
(2) gunniesack says:

Of course it is Doctored. It would be of the future.

August 16, 2013 at 11:13 am
(3) gunniesack says:

ummmmm They need to doctor a picture of the future

August 18, 2013 at 4:33 am
(4) Dave Disco says:

Its obviously a hoax, if a planet was to look that big in our skies it would be mayhem, however as a sci fi geek it would be nice to look up and actually see that in the sky, just so i can pretend im on star wars planet Tattooine ;-)

August 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm
(5) Missy says:

The tides would be effed if that pic was true.

August 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm
(6) The Martian says:

Missy, no it wouldn’t it’s too far away for gravity to affect us. They are suggesting it would ‘appear’ the same size as the moon. Mars did pass within 34 million miles in 2003, and we never felt a thing.

And for those who are interested
Moon = 31.4 arc minutes (31.4 X 60 = 1884 arc seconds) of sky
Mars = 25.11 arc seconds of sky in Aug 2003 (34 million miles away)
1884/25.11 = 75. Mars was 1/75th the size of the moon.

If you looked at Mars through a 75X telescope in Aug 2003 Mars would have appeared to be the same size as the moon is to the naked eye.

Never let the maths get in the way of a good story huh?

August 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm
(7) anon says:

The math of it is, for Mars to get close enough to look like the moon (it’s only about twice the size of the moon, so it would have to actually be roughly twice the distance of the moon, so we’re talking a bit over 700,000 KM rather than the ~55,000,000 KM it actually was when it got at its closest point) it would indeed be close enough for its gravity to wreak havok on the Earth. You don’t have to do math to know it though! You already know the moon’s gravity has an effect on us, so just imagine it as another gravity source on Earth and think what that would do just on its own even assuming a weak effect…

August 22, 2013 at 9:18 am
(8) GaryL says:

No ,Missy is correct … ” if it looked like that ” the tides WOULD be kicking or asses !!!

August 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm
(9) Dr. Pepper says:

Mars is roughly twice the VOLUME of Earth’s moon, so I agree that to look as big as the Moon it would have to be roughly twice the distance from the Earth as the Moon is (intercept theorem). The effect on Earth wouldn’t be as though there was just the force of gravity of one additional Moon creating tidal pulls. Mars is roughly 8.6 times the mass of the moon and gravitational force is related to the mass of two objects and the distance between them. Since gravity varies inversely to the square of the distance between the center of two masses, the pull of gravity from Mars at that distance would be 8.6 times the force of the moon divided by 2 times the distance squared (4) for 8.6/4 = 2.15 times the gravitational force on the Earth as the Moon.

Surf’s up!

August 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm
(10) Kashins DaWeeD says:

Well… for Mars, to appear in same size as Moon from such distance, it should be about 3.6 times larger than Jupiter ;)

August 24, 2013 at 11:01 am
(11) Martin Freye says:

Thanks, it was obviously rubbish when it appeared on my facebook

August 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm
(12) M says:

My bad… I should have searched this site before waiting for that to happen. Where to check the correct details of these happenings. Life is once just want to see as much we can.

August 27, 2013 at 11:41 am
(13) Yash says:

Is it at truth or a hoax ? ?

August 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm
(14) David says:

Come on folks, use a little common sense here. Would it go from looking like a start to looking like the moon in one night? Are we expected to believe it looked like a star last night, then boom it’s the size of the moon tonight. If mars did get that close it would have been increasing for weeks or months now, it would have been almost the size of the moon last night, and only slightly smaller the night before etc. Think it through folks.

August 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm
(15) Luke says:

Just 1 hour to go till we see the red planet in action. I’ve got my telescope at the ready ;)

August 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm
(16) Ron Maty says:

The .pps presentation I received says “at a modest 75 power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.” Another site says the arc size of Mars is 1/72 that of the moon, so at 75X magnification it would appear thru the telescope to be as large as the moon with the naked eye.

October 19, 2013 at 1:44 am
(17) Deborah says:

I’d like to know what I have pics of from Campo Ca.. Bright red planet with the moon. I live in a very rural part of Ca. and was taking pics hoping to catch lunar eclipse and got pics of some other planet ( I guess ) could you please explain what I got pics of. thank you Deborah

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Urban Legends

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.