Facebook is Lying to You - Mars Will Not be as Big as the Moon Tomorrow

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 - 11:30AM
Space
Mars
Astronomy
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 - 11:30AM
Facebook is Lying to You - Mars Will Not be as Big as the Moon Tomorrow
It's time for the annual geek PSA about a bizarrely recurring hoax that swamps Facebook and social media feeds every August. 

If you are a regular visitor to Facebook, there's a solid chance that you have happened across a healthy number of idiotic posts. From desperate calls for attention to those damn Minion memes, social media is often a minefield of facepalm moments. One of those facepalm moments is reaching its annual peak right now, with posts about the moon appearing in our skies as big as the moon. Every August, the fallacy of a spectacularly large Mars rears its ugly head, causing the eyes of the scientific community to roll in unison. 


Believe it or not, posts such as the one above all started because of information that was released some 12 years ago. Back in 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth for over 60,000 years in an event known as the perihelic opposition. But even at its closest approach, Mars would never be able to look as big as the moon to the naked eye, because if it did, it would cause some rather serious problems.

As Space.com points out, the problem all came from the misinterpretation of a well-meaning email that was sent in the hope of getting people excited about the 2003 celestial event.

Opening quote
The encounter will culminate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles (55,763,108 kilometers) of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification, Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot.
Closing quote

The problem came with that penultimate sentence. People apparently neglected to differentiate '75-power magnification' and 'naked eye', and so a legend was born.

Since 2003, thanks largely to the proliferation of social media, that misconstrued message has grown in strength and is recirculated like clockwork every year. But the next time Mars makes its closest approach to Earth is not until 2287, and even then it WILL NOT be as big as the moon when viewed with the naked eye.

So please, circulate this message to your friends on social media and let's try to stop this silliness once and for all. Mars will never ever look appear the same size as the moon, and if it does we'll all have a lot more to worry about than taking a photo of it.
Science
Science News
Space
Mars
Astronomy

Load Comments