Monday, July 30, 2007

Mars invades in boxes

August seems to be the silly season for Mars as inboxes fill with a perennial hoax e-mail that arrives at about this time every year. The mail tells readers that Mars is due to an incredibly close approach, so close in fact that it will appear as it the Earth has two moons in the sky. The story seems to have originated from the genuine close approach of August 2003, when the planet came within 35 million miles of us. By no stretch of the imagination did it appear as large as our own moon, but it was some 6 times large than normal and 85 times brighter. From this has sprung the hoax mail, which somehow re-emerges every year no matter where Mars is in the firmament. Alas, to get anything like a repeat of the 2003 show, you’ll have to wait for 2018, though it won’t actually be until 2287 that we’ll get an approach as close again.