Two "moons" in the sky? Not on THIS planet!

Good grief, here it is again. There is yet another instance of the Hoax That Will Not Die circulating on the Internet. Here is the version I received a few minutes ago in an email:

Hey check this out...
> Two moons on 27 August
> 27th Aug the Whole World is waiting for......... .....
> Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting
> August.

> It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.

> This will Cultivate on Aug.
27 when Mars comes within
> 34.65M miles off earth. Be Sure to watch the sky on Aug.
> 12:30 am .

> It will look like the earth has 2 moons.

> The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

> Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will
> ever see it Again.


Let me be clear on this point: THIS IS A HOAX! Or, at best, it is an "urban (web) legend," initially spread by people just plain lying about it, but now mostly passed along by people who believe it because they don't know any better.

To those of us who know and love astronomy, this sort of thing is like Dracula; we keep staking it in the heart, but it keeps rising up again. Whoever started sending it out across the Internet deserves to be flogged to death for messing with people's expectations about astronomical phenomena.

No, Mars will NOT look anything like the moon to the naked eye -- at least not to anyone on Earth! In the first place, in 2008 on the date listed here, Mars will actually be on the FAR SIDE OF THE SUN from us, so it most certainly won't be anywhere near a "close approach" to Earth; it will be at virtually the farthest point from us that it can get!

In the second place, even when it is at closest approach to Earth, Mars is still over 125 times farther away than the moon; Mars is larger than the moon, but not 125 times larger! Mars is small; it's actually less than twice the diameter of the moon, so it would need to be MUCH closer than that to look roughly moon-sized. Even at closest approach to Earth, Mars never looks to us like anything more than a bright, somewhat orange-colored star that twinkles somewhat less than actual stars do. THAT'S IT.

For more information about this, please check out the following sources:

* http://www. snopes. com/science/mars. asp

* http://blogs. discovermagazine. com/badastronomy/2008/08/19/mars-as-big-as-the-moon-its-baaaaack/ (Note here that astronomer Phil Plait also links to FIVE previous occasions when he wrote to debunk this annoying hoax.)

There are some awesome astronomical events and discoveries occurring all the time. It cheapens them, and the educational work of science teachers and astronomers, for some dishonest hoaxster to have initiated urban-legend nonsense like this, which others spread out of well-meaning ignorance. Please do what you can to inoculate others against this meme of stupidity. Thank you.

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Comment by HotMess on August 26, 2008 at 5:07pm
The interned? That's inspiring ...
Comment by HotMess on August 26, 2008 at 12:35pm
You know what - I don't care how obviously untrue it is, the power of the interned will have me out tomorrow night looking at the stars and checking out the size of Mars ... cool! It rhymes!
Comment by Wordplayer on August 26, 2008 at 9:58am
Larian, good point. But we all have our hot-button issues, and lying about science matters is one of mine, especially when it's my beloved astronomy.
Comment by Wordplayer on August 26, 2008 at 9:38am
Cowpunk62, that's another detail worth exposing. I felt that the hoax itself was more important to bust here than the malapropism, but you are quite right to point out the stupidity of that as well.
Comment by HotMess on August 26, 2008 at 12:46am
Instead of "cultivating" on the 27th, do you think that maybe it should "culminate" in something, or is this some kind of harvest moon thing as well?
p.s. you know I'm just being sarcastic about the harvest moon thing, right?
Comment by Larian LeQuella on August 25, 2008 at 8:36pm
Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder how people can be so gullible, then I look down the street and see multimillion dollar church properties, and this little hoax seems mild in comparison.
Comment by Wordplayer on August 25, 2008 at 3:14pm
Exactly. This stupid hoax started up in 2003, and it has been on a recycling loop ever since then. I think it initially included such details as the year, but this has since been removed (apparently by people who WANT to see the stupid hoax continued), so it seems "current" now whenever it's being circulated. Blasted hoaxsters -- flogging's too good for 'em.
Comment by Parallax on August 25, 2008 at 3:10pm
I knew that Mars was at its perigee with respect to Earth about 5 years or so ago, but not this soon after that. I think this is outdated material.

When Mars was close it was pretty big, but no one in their right mind would have mistaken it for another moon! That's just silly talk.



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