Close Encounter with Mars on August 27 (2006 Version)
Netlore Archive: 2006 variant of years-old email hoax repeats outdated claim that during the month of August the orbits of Mars and Earth will bring the two planets closer together than ever before in recorded history.
Description: Email hoax
Circulating since: July 2006 (this version)
Status: Outdated / False (see details below)
Email example contributed by Monica S., July 11, 2006:
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 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 look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.
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 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.
NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
Analysis: Don't bet on this one being true. The text was roughly accurate when it first began circulating in the summer of 2003, outdated when it went around again in 2005, and just plain false by the time it reappeared in 2006, 2007, 2008, and again in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
It's now 2012 (view the most recent version). How many times can a "once in a lifetime" event occur?
On August 27, 2003, the oscillating orbits of Mars and Earth did, in fact, bring the two planets closer together than at any other time during the past 50,000 years. Although Mars never actually appeared "as large as the full moon" not even close for a few days in 2003 it was indeed the brightest object in the night sky.
In October 2005 another well-publicized "close encounter" occurred, though in that case the planets were about 13 million kilometers further apart than during the 2003 event.
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Sources and further reading:
Mars Closest to Earth in 50,000 Years
About Space/Astronomy, August 2003
Close Encounter with Mars
NASA, 25 August 2003
Beware the Mars Hoax
NASA, 7 July 2005
Rumors of Giant Planet a Hoax, Says Astronomer
CBC News, 17 July 2006
Last updated: 04/07/12