Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mars NOT Looming Large

If you expect to see Mars swelled to the size of a full moon on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005, you've probably been the victim of a cruel hoax. Someone, for reasons known only to himself, decided to pull a prank on all the would-be planet-gazers out there by sending around an email describing a closer-than-ever pass of Earth by the Red Planet.

It's not going to happen, at least not again.

Most of the information in this fatuous email is very near the truth about the close approach of Mars back in summer 2003. Mars did come closer to Earth than it has in 60,000 years and it did appear the size of a full moon, but only if you viewed it magnified by 100 times in a quality telescope. I wrote a column about it at the time, which you can read here.

The good news for those who'd like a gander at the God of War is he'll be making a bright appearance at the end of October and beginning of November. Watch this space as details will come as the date approaches. In the meantime, Mars is coming up in the east about 11 p.m. your local time, and over the month of September it will double its brightness, which is a great reason to start watching now.

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