The planet Mars will make a once-in-our-lifetimes, remarkably close approach to Earth on
Collected via e-mail, August 2015
Some things never go out of style, and this “Mars Spectacular” message is one of them. It’s yet another example of a widely-circulated e-mail containing information that was once true but which continues to
be forwarded around year after year, long after the information it contains has become outdated.
Mars did make an extraordinarily close approach to Earth over ten years ago, culminating on
Although Mars’ proximity to Earth in
Mars had another close encounter with Earth in 2005, but that occurrence took place in October (not August), and the red planet appeared about 20% smaller than it did during similar circumstances in 2003. Mars also made a close approach to Earth in
Texas astronomer Torvald Hessel observed the following in a 2006 interview about the perennial “Mars Spectacular” message:
Q: What’s the truth?
A: Mars gets close to Earth every two years. So, last year, Mars was very close. Three years ago, it was spectacularly
close …And right now, I’m sad to say, Mars is actually behind the Sun; we can’t see it at all.
Q: How wide spread is this falsehood?
A: People get excited about it, start to send
e-mail …and every August we see this
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum also noted in 2010 that:
The e-mail in question is commonly referred to as the “Mars Hoax” or, more accurately, the “Mars Spectacular,” and is titled: “Two moons on 27 August or The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!”
It informs recipients that Mars will have an extremely close encounter with Earth during the month of August, culminating on August 27th when Mars is approximately 34 million miles away. The information in the previous sentence was only true during the month of August in 2003. This was a historic astronomical event. Mars was the closest it had been to Earth in 60,000 years. However, this already happened.
The web site of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) provides a chart displaying data about Mars Oppositions (past, present, and future), and the web site of the Hubble Heritage Project offers some nice composite telescope images from previous Mars near oppositions.