Rumors have been spreading around the internet claiming an annual classic claim that states "Mars Spectacular:" an event where the red planet will appear to be as big as the Moon in the night sky due to how close it approaches Earth, will be happening on August 27.
Mars close approach
The rumor is another classic example of an email being spread around containing a detailed explanation of the event that was partly true at some point in history but has since been re-distributed every year in an exaggerated form.
According to Snopes, Mars did make a spectacularly close approach to Earth on August 27, 2003. The event was where the red planet was within 35 million miles from our planet. The occurrence recorded the closest approach between the two celestial bodies in nearly 60,000 years.
During the approach, Mars appeared about six times larger and shone 85 times brighter than usual in the night sky.
The widely spread claim had one version which was distributed with a line break that confused readers into thinking Mars would appear as big as the Moon to the human eye. The misunderstanding was brought about by not stating that the perspective was only to those who viewed the red planet through a telescope with at least 75 times magnification.
While the 2003 Mars approach is a rare event, the red planet comes within close proximity to Earth every 15 to 17 years. To the majority of observers, the red planet's appearance did not appear to be significantly different than usual.
In 2005, a similar event occurred where Mars had another close encounter with Earth where the red planet was 20 percent smaller when viewed by observers. In 2007, another occurrence happened, but at the time, Mars was still 55 million miles away from our planet, much farther than it was in previous years.
Debunked false news
Experts reassure that despite the claims, Mars can never appear to be as large or as bright as the Moon in the night sky. The email and any claim going around on social media that state otherwise are false, as reported by EarthSky.
The closest encounter between the two planets occurred on July 27, 2018, where the distance between the two was around 35.8 million miles. Astronomers said Mars would appear twice as bright, but nowhere near the size and brightness of the Moon.
The 2003 event will remain the closest distance between Mars and Earth until 2287 where experts estimate the distance will be reduced to approximately 34.6 million miles.
Torvald Hessel, an astronomer from Texas, answered several questions in 2006 regarding the "Mars Spectacular" message going viral on social media. The expert revealed that every two years, Mars gets closer to Earth.
Hessel noted the false news is spread due to people getting excited about the possibility of a beautiful sight and begin to repost without fact-checking the evidence.
In 2010, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum noted the email that was being spread around was called "Mars Hoax."