Urban Myth Debunked

August 26, 2005

Best_mars-moon_conj_-jul_17_03 copy

Provided and copyright by: Rick Stankiewicz
Summary authors & editors: Rick Stankiewicz

There is an “urban myth” circulating at present that on August 27th, the planet Mars will be the closer to Earth than it has been in almost 60,000 years, and that it'll be 24.1 arc seconds in diameter and thus appear larger than the full Moon in the night sky. The above image of Mars was taken (through a telescope) two years ago on July 17, 2003, when Mars was only 5 weeks away from truly being closest to Earth than it had been in almost 60,000 years. At this time, it was an object about 20 arc seconds in size. Note the Moon's limb in the foreground and also the polar ice cap on Mars. Do you really think that the Red Planet could grow to be larger in the sky that a full Moon? Not possible! It was pretty remarkable back in 2003, but a telescope was still required to appreciate its proximity to us. It could be that there's some confusion with the “urban myth” circulating now and the event from two years ago. Mars will not reach a larger size than 25.14 arc sec. until August 28, 2287. On October 29th this year (2005), it'll be 20.2 arc sec.-- it won't be any closer to us than this (or appear any larger) until October, 2020. On August 27th this year Mars will only reach about 14 arc sec. in size. Nonetheless, look for Mars in the morning sky, (about an hour before sunsrise) -- it's always worth a peek.

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