For the 11 year in a row, a message about the Red Planet is popping up in email boxes, whtsapp and other social media groups around the world. It instructs readers to go outside after dark on August 27th and behold the sky. "Mars will look as large as the full moon," it says. "No one alive today will ever see this again."
Don't believe it!!!!!
Here's what will really happen if you go outside after dark on August 27th. Nothing. Mars won't be there. On that date, the red planet will be nearly 318 million km away from Earth and completely absent from the late night sky. This mail is a hoax but it has done some service to Astronomy by making it popular among masses so that they can at least have a discussion on the matter. We will just go through the mail again and see why it is a hoax. The original mail is in bold and italics followed by explanation
1. Since this won't happen again between 5,000 and 60,000 years...might be worth a look now: Mars - The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!
Mars always looks spectacular as a small red dot in the black skies!!
2. This month the Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in the year 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.
Mars comes close to earth once in 2 years (26 months to be precise) and that’s called opposition. Last time it happened was in April 2014 and will happen next time in May 22, 2016. Also when planet is closest, then Mars rises as sun sets but in this case mars is setting within 3 hours of sunset.
This month on 27th August it will be at a distance of 1.35 AU from the earth (Approx. 201 million kms from earth). Jupiter’s gravity tug has got nothing to with the phenomenon. It came closest to earth in last 60000 years on 27th August 2003 and that’s the only resemblance with the date.
For your information last 4 oppositions and the next one is given below:
2007 Dec 24 0.5929 AU 88.7 million kms
2010 Jan 29 0.6639 AU 99.33 million kms
2012 Mar 03 0.6743 AU 100.93 million kms
2014 Apr 08 0.6175 AU 92.3 Million kms
2016 May 22 0.5032 AU 75.2 Million kms
3. The encounter will culminate on August 27, 2014 when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification…
When it says it will be brightest object next to moon and with a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 seconds of arc, the statement has no meaning. But the catch in this statement is that through a 75x magnification from the telescope it will look as if you are watching the moon with naked eye. For you information, full moon has a magnitude of -13 which as compared to -2.9 is huge (around 10000 times difference in brightness). Moon as seen with naked eye looks as a circle of 1800 seconds of arc (half a degree) in comparison to Mars as mere 7 arc sec. Mars on 27th August, 2014 will be shining meekly at magnitude 0.5 which is almost quite fainter than what is written about mars on that day (its like watching at 100 w bulb at a distance of 39 kms) and it will 201 million kilometers away from earth. In fact Venus will be the brightest object in the skies this august but in the early morning skies.
4. Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.
Totally false statement. As per previous Paragraph, Mars can never look as large as full moon to naked eye. Mars will set by 10:30 pm on that day.
5. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.
Totally false statement: Moon is not a planet first of all. And in august around 27th mars will rise at around 11:48 am IST, will be achieving its highest point at 3:00 pm IST and will set by 10:30 hrs IST and Moon will be in its waxing phase just after new moon on 27th August and will rise set by 19:30 IST. Full Moon occurred on Aug 10th, on the day of rakhi festival. The mail/message which you have received is a copy of the mail meant for 2003 closest approach. These two heavenly bodies will never be in the same sky at any given time.
6. Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
Yes, share the news with your children and grandchildren because it will invoke their interest in Astronomy!!!! Do see the Mars in the evening skies these days with help of a telescope.
Written by C B Devgun, President, SPACE Foundation.