An up-close view of Mars? Not likely, says Penn State Erie professor

Aug 15, 2006

Thinking about cozying up with your sweetheart later this month for a once-in-a-lifetime-chance to view Mars at its closest contact to Earth in recorded history? Think again, and bump up that quality time by a couple of weeks.

An e-mail is circulating claiming that on Aug. 27, Mars will be within 34,649,589 miles of Earth -- "the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history." For that evening, Mars will "be the brightest object in the night sky" aside from the moon. The e-mail purports that Mars will be easy to spot: viewable as early as 10 p.m. at the beginning of August and 12:30 a.m. by month's end when the two planets are closest.

According to Roger Knacke, director of the School of Science at Penn State Erie and professor of physics and astronomy, the e-mail is a hoax.

"Mars will be very faint for the next week, and then disappear in the sun's glare," Knacke explained. "Currently, the best way to view Mars is 30 minutes after sunset with binoculars at about eight degrees above the western horizon. Unfortunately, that low of a point in the sky is very often covered by clouds in Erie."

Knacke also rebuts the claim that "Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye."

"Mars is never close to the size of the Moon," he continued. "At best, Mars is a bright point of light to the naked eye, and a small round image when viewed through a telescope."

Knacke added that the images accompanying the e-mail appear to be processed from the Hubble Space Telescope or, possibly, from a spacecraft approaching Mars.

Source: Penn State

Explore further: Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scalping can raise ticket prices

52 minutes ago

Scalping gets a bad rap. For years, artists and concert promoters have stigmatized ticket resale as a practice that unfairly hurts their own sales and forces fans to pay exorbitant prices for tickets to sold-out concerts. ...

Tropical Storm Genevieve forms in Eastern Pacific

2 hours ago

The seventh tropical depression of the Eastern Pacific Ocean formed and quickly ramped up to a tropical storm named "Genevieve." NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured an infrared image of the newborn storm ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe

58 minutes ago

Astronomers at the University of British Columbia have collaborated with international researchers to calculate the precise mass of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, dispelling the notion that the two galaxies have similar ...

Mysterious molecules in space

11 hours ago

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars ...

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

Jul 28, 2014

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

Jul 28, 2014

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

Jul 25, 2014

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

User comments : 0