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Close Encounter with Mars on August 27 (2003 Version)

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Original version of a widely forwarded email claiming that August 27 will bring the closest encounter between Mars and Earth in recorded history. Unfortunately, this 'once in a lifetime event' already came and went in 2003.

Description: Email rumor / Viral text
Circulating since: July 2003 (this version)
Status: Outdated / False (see analysis)


Example:
Email contributed by Glenn P., July 25, 2003:

CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MARS

Never again in our lifetime will the Red Planet look so spectacular! This month and next Earth is catching up with Mars, 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. The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles 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 he naked eye.

Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August, Mars will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m. But 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 12:30 a.m. That's pretty convenient when it comes to seeing something that no human 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. Share this!

No one alive today will ever see this again.


Info:

Mars Closest to Earth in 50,000 Years
About.com: Space/Astronomy, August 2003

Close Encounter with Mars
NASA Science News, 25 August 2003

Beware the Mars Hoax
NASA Science News, 7 July 2005

Rumors of Giant Planet a Hoax, Says Astronomer
CBC News, 17 July 2006


Last updated: 04/07/12


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