Mars message mocks many

August 27th, 2008 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, Aug 27 (IANS) It was an e-mail message that promised a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gaze Tuesday night at the unique celestial event of Mars coming closest to Earth in 5,000 years. But, it turned out to be a hoax.The e-mail message read: “Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting Aug 27 when Mars comes within 34.65 million miles off Earth.”

“Be sure to watch the sky Aug 27 12.30 a.m. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. 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,” it read.

When IANS contacted T. Chandrasekhar, a professor at the Physical Research Laboratory here, he had a hearty laugh.

“How can Mars come closer to earth when its orbit is fixed,” he asked. No celestial body can be as close to Earth as the moon which lies at a mean distance of 384,400 km. Mars was close to the Earth in December 2007.

Astronomers at the Birla Planetarium too confirmed it as a hoax saying Mars was “closest” to the Earth in December 2003 but it can never look like moon as Moon is always closer to Earth.

Astronomers say that during August 2008 the view of Mars will be “at its faintest” after being somewhat closer to Earth during December 2007.

And, at around a distance of 88 million km in December 2007, Mars was still a lot further away from Earth than it was back in 2003 when the distance between the two planets was only around 56 million km.

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