Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Very Close Planet

Is the planet Mars about to make a once-in-our-lifetimes, remarkably close approach to earth this coming August (2009)?

That’s the subject of an e-mail that’s currently making the rounds on the internet. The answer? NO. Mars is not about to make a close approach to earth this August--but it already did just that in August of 2003.

Here’s what the e-mail says:


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 e-mail goes on to say that Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye…but even that is inaccurate. That should have read that it would look as large as the full moon to people viewing it through a powerful telescope.

Both Snopes.com and truthorfiction.com tell us that this story was actually true in 2003…but it has circulated every summer since then. Mars has made a couple of close approaches to earth since 2003, but not nearly as close as that one.

And despite the fact that this e-mail comes out every summer, Mars will not be as close to earth as it was in 2003 until 2287.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that send button!

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