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The Mars Hoax

A bogus e-mail letter circulated on the Internet during the summers of 2005 and 2006 tried to mislead people into thinking that Mars would look as big as the full Moon to the naked eye in late August. The bogus letter has reappeared this year.

The story goes back to August 2003 when Mars made a historical close approach to Earth and thus attained its maximum visual brightness. There was a saying that when Mars reached the point closest to Earth on 27 August 2003, it would appear to the naked eye as big as the moon when viewed through a 75 times magnification telescope.    Apparently that qualifier was dropped from the bogus letter resulting in an amazing statement.

Even when Mars is at its closest and brightest, it still looks like a tiny orange star, nowhere near as big and bright as the full Moon.

On 27 August 2007, Mars will be far away from Earth, at a distance three times that of the 2003 approach and one-eighteenth as bright. It will definitely not be as magnificent as the bogus letter claims.