Mars August 27 2009: Recycled Hoax, Nothing to See Tonight
Some people are led to believe that Mars on the night of August 27, 2009 will be as big as the moon. However, the supposedly "once in a lifetime event" is nothing but a recycled internet hoax that first appeared in 2003.
The hoax originated in 2003, when Mars was indeed closest to Earth in 60,000 years, closing in to about 56 million km (or 34.6 million miles). Rather than an out right hoax, it is more likely caused by misinformation. This is possibly how the rumor started:
Check it out, guess no one will get much sleep in August.
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.
Share this with your children and grandchildren.
NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
In the email, it says that with "a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye." However, the part about using a telescope is dropped in the rumor. Mars will appear nothing more than a shiny orange star with naked eye.
Astronomers find it sad that a lot of people have so little knowledge in astronomy.
"The possibility of seeing Mars as large as the moon strikes the imagination," said Marc Jobin, staff astronomer at the Montréal Planetarium in Quebec.
So, no, you will not see 2 moons tonight.