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Home Hoaxes Mars, Earth – Closest Approach in Recorded History – The Great Mars Hoax

Mars, Earth – Closest Approach in Recorded History – The Great Mars Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on June 14, 2005

Outline

Message claims that Earth and Mars will have the closest approach in recorded history in July or August and will be a spectacular sight for stargazers.  Some versions claim that Mars will appear as big as the moon in the sky.   

Brief Analysis

The event described did occur back in 2003, but this message is now hopelessly outdated and has morphed into a silly hoax that begins circulating anew in July and August almost every year. In 2018, Mars will indeed be brighter in the sky than it has for some years, although not as bright as it was in 2003. And, even in 2003, Mars did not appear as large as the full moon to the naked eye as claimed in some versions of the message. It will never appear that large.  There will be a total lunar eclipse on 27–28 July 2018 but this is in no way related to the claims in this old Mars hoax message.

Examples

Mars as Big as The Moon Hoax 2018
Two moons in the sky on July 27! The next time this cosmic event will happen again, will be 36,996 ……Share this information as much as possible with your friends because NO human being alive today will be able to behold this incredible phenomenon a second time.

 

Subject: FW: Mars

Enjoy!!!

Amazing

This is a ‘truly once in a lifetime event’ that will occur in August. View the attachment and mark it on your calendars. None of us will live long enough to ever have the chance to view this again. Enjoy!!

Mars Hoax 1

(The message includes a slide show presentaion with the following text)

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!

This month and next, 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 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.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th 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.

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 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

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. Share this with your children and grandchildren.

NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

 

Subject: Mars – August 27th must see

Get those telescopes out!

Something to look forward to this summer.

Mars

Mars Hoax 2

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!

This month and next, 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 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.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th 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.

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 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

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. Share this with your children and grandchildren.

NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

Detailed Analysis

This message has circulated during July and August since 2005

The message informs recipients that the planet Mars will be passing very close to Earth in August.  One incarnation of the hoax consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation that provides basically the same information as contained in the original email along with several more photographs of Mars.

The year is not specifically mentioned in the message and a great many recipients thus assume that the message refers to August of the current year. Virtually identical (and equally misleading) messages have circulated in July and August every year since 2005.

The events outlined in the message were more or less true back in 2003 although they were a little hyped even then. As discussed below, in 2018, Mars will be brighter in the sky than it has for some years, although not as bright as it was in 2003. 
 According to NASA, on August 27, 2003, Earth and Mars were the closest they have been for around 60,000 years. Mars was indeed a spectacular sight in the night sky during several months of 2003.

However, this fact is not quite as earth-shattering as you might think. A 2003 NASA article on the subject explains that:

Much has been made of the fact that the August 27th encounter with Mars is the closest in some 60,000 years. Neanderthals were the last to observe Mars so favorably placed. This is true. It’s also a bit of hype. Mars and Earth have been almost this close many times in recent history.

This message seems set to keep resurfacing every year and duping a whole new set of recipients into gazing rather fruitlessly at the night sky.

But don’t despair! Close encounters with Mars are not such uncommon events. The claim that “NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN!” is misleading. It is true that the next time Mars will be as close to Earth as it was in 2003 will be on August 28, 2287.

But, in fact, in 2018, Mars will be almost as bright in the sky as it was back in 2003. Astronomy website EarthSky notes:

Remember Mars in 2003? That was the year the red planet came closer to Earth than it had been in some 60,000 years. Mars can be faint, or it can be a bright planet. It can outshine most stars. But, in 2003, for a few months, Mars was exceedingly spectacular in our sky, outshining all the stars and planets except brilliant Venus. In 2018, Mars won’t be quite as bright as it was in 2003. But nearly!

 

It’ll dramatically brighten over the coming months to appear as a red dot of brilliant flame in our sky around late July, 2018.

But, even though it will indeed look spectacular in July 2018, Mars will certainly not appear as large as the full moon to the naked eye as claimed in some versions of this old hoax message. And, the claims in the old hoax message are in no way related to the total lunar eclipse that is et to occur on the 27th and 28th July 2018.

Perhaps by 2287 some of our descendants will be observing the close encounter from the Martian perspective.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer