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Close Encounter of a Martian Kind
by Michelle Mock

If you believe what you read in those emails that tell you to "forward to everyone you know", you might believe a hoax about Mars that has been circulating the Internet.  In that email, people are told that Mars will approach Earth closer than it has ever been before.  The claim is that Mars will look as large as the full moon and no one alive today will ever see such a sight again.  However, like many "chain letter" emails, that email about Mars is false.

Whenever I read some bizarre claim about Mars, the moon, astronomy or science, I head straight to Imagiverse interviewee Phil Plait's website.  He has already explained this claim about Mars:

Even NASA got into the act of debunking the hoax and explained the real facts:

In late August 2003, Mars was the closest I had ever seen it.  I was at Disneyland and couldn't help but notice the large, bright, orange looking "star".  It wasn't a star at all, it was Mars!  It was beautiful.  For the next few days, it would appear each evening and I would point it out to anyone who would look up.  Soon after closest approach on August 27th, however, Mars began to recede from Earth, and it became once again just an ordinary point of light in the sky.  On October 31, 2005, Mars will again get very close to Earth.  It won't get quite as close as it was last time, but it is expected to be just as beautiful... even though it won't look as big as the full moon!

In late October 2005, look up in the sky at night and find that reddish "star".  Take the time to wonder about our neighboring planet and imagine what it would really look like if it were close enough to look like our full moon.

For more information about Mars, browse through Imagiverse's extensive articles (including the 2003 closest approach) at:

Puzzled about Mars?  Send your questions to our Mars experts at Imagiverse!


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Last Updated:
14 August 2005

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