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Sky Caramba

The Mars hoax keeps coming back

14 Sep 2014, 00:00 UTC
The Mars hoax keeps coming back
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¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending September 20, 2014
A story that goes around from time to time claims Mars will come so close to Earth, it will look as big as the full moon. Don’t be fooled. It’s a hoax!
The hoax started with the 2003 opposition of Mars when the red planet passed a little less than 56 million kilometers or 35 million miles from Earth. That’s as close as the two planets had been in about 60,000 years.
Certainly, there were some good views of Mars because it was so close. But you needed a telescope for those good views—or else it just looked like a dot.
Well, someone somewhere started an email that claimed Mars and the full moon would be side by side and that the planet would look as big as the full moon to the naked eye. A lot of people shared and spread that email. Some were surely disappointed when the big night came.
The email went around again in 2005 when Mars approached opposition again. It’s gone around several times since then via social media. And it appears at seemingly random times now—not just when Mars is approaching opposition.

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