Stop. Just stop it.
Every year there are certain things to look forward to – Christmas, 4th of July, and the start of college football season. And with those good things comes the idiocy of the claim that at the end of August Mars will appear as large in the night sky as the moon.
Where does this come from? In 2003, the closest approach for Mars and Earth was the closest it been in nearly 60,000 years, making it the best time to view the red planet through a strong telescope. Phil Plait explained last year:
“On that date, through a telescope that magnifies an image 75x, Mars would look as big as the Moon does to the naked eye. … But this being the Internet, that got all mished and mashed up, and somehow became this idea that if you went outside Mars would look huge in the sky, looming over the world like something out of an H. G. Wells novel.”
So there you have it. The internet decided to do what it does best. Take a bit of fact and a bunch of panic and run with it. Of course, there’s no way Mars will look as big as the moon in the night sky this August. Or any August.
According to IFLScience.com:
The respective orbits of Mars and Earth make their closest approach with one another once every 26 months. The most recent event was this past April, when it just happened to coincide with a total lunar eclipse. This year, that approach left a distance of 92 million kilometers (57.2 million miles) between the planets, and while Mars could be seen with the naked eye, it was still just a small smudge of red light.
Just for kicks, how close would Mars need to be to appear as large as the full moon in the night sky? About 780,000 kilometers (485,000 miles), which is approximately 118 times closer than it will ever be. Heck, the Moon’s average distance is about 363,100 kilometers (225,600 miles), so we’d all be in pretty big trouble if Mars got that close.
This can be solved in two ways: (1) people reading the date of the idiotic Facebook post that started all this, or (2) people understanding how far away
But don’t think that’s going to be the end of it. You’ll see more and more people sharing this preposterous “news” as it gets closer to the end of the month.