Mars attacks again, again

The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 8 2006 10:26 PM

Mars attacks again, again

That's not a typo.

That &)#@)(&%$) email is being sent around again, saying that Mars will look as big as the moon on August 27. That email was sent out in 2003 and again, reproduced almost exactly, in 2005.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

And here we are, again, so I have to debunk it, again. I wrote up yet another web page about this email. This makes the third time I've had to do it, too. Sigh.

If you have any lingering doubts, this image may clear them up.

It's a telescopic view of a very rare event: the Moon passing directly in front of (what astronomers call "occulting") Mars. Look at the size difference! Physically, Mars is about twice the size of the Moon. But even at best it's more than 140 times farther away, so it appears -- again, at best -- about 1/70th as big as the Moon.

Oh -- on August 27th, 2006, Mars will be about as far away as it can be, since it's on the other side of the Sun from us right now. So it'll be invisible for all practical purposes, lost in the glare.

So there you go. If you're looking for a giant Mars looming above you in the sky, you'll have to wait until you can buy a ticket and go there.

Update (Aug. 22, 2006): I neglected to add a credit to the image above. It's Ron Dantowitz, Clay Center Observatory at Dexter and Southfield Schools, and clicking it will take you to a site with fantastic images in the gallery!

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.