Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mars in August?

My in box is filling up with questions about Mars being close to Earth August 27, 2009. Will it be a spectacular sight?

Mars from the Hale Telescope

Mars will be downright awful in August. In late August Mars doesn't rise until almost 1:30 am and it will be very far from Earth - nearly 150 million miles distant. The view will be much better in late January, 2010 when Mars is at opposition. Opposition refers to the time when Mars is opposite the Sun in the sky. As such, it rises at sunset and is visible all night long. In January Mars will be much closer to Earth than in August, by almost 100 million miles.

The Mars Hoax has been going around the Internet every year since 2003. Mars was very close to Earth in August that year, just 35 million miles away.


jg said...

Did you get one of those recycled Mars-as-big-as-the-full-moon emails? I wish I had kept the last one I received. What I like about the Mars hoax is that it shows how much people really care about astronomy. Most don't think of themselves as interested in astronomy, but if they get word of an unusual event, they don't want to miss it, even to the point of fueling a mass hysteria and passing along the email. It's a great opportunity to remind people the care more than they think.


Scott Kardel said...

Yes, one of them was the "Mars will be as big as the full moon" emails.

You make a good point John. People love this stuff even if they can't tell fact from fiction.

Anonymous said...

When was that particular Mars image taken?

I cannot stand the Mars Hoax and the fact that so many in the public fall for it every time, but I am trying to make lemonade out of this lemon by using it as a springboard to gain some knowledge and interest in accurate astronomy whenever it comes up.

Scott Kardel said...

The image was taken July, 2003 by then Caltech grad student Stanimir Metchev (Thanks, Stan!). Around that time they had tried to use the adaptive optics system to image Mars but it was actually too bright!

J.West said...

i'm a bit behind the curve these days, but anytime I see some big Powerpoint for the reading and thinking impaired, skepticism automatically kicks in....dunno if that makes me smart, just a good habit that's stuck I guess

Anonymous said...

so does any one have an accurate online sky map site so i can know when to look for planets at there best and where to look