August 2010
« Jul   Oct »


Oh, No! Not the return of the Mars in August email :-(

Size comparison of Mars (at closest and furthest approach) and the moon

See Mars and the moon near one another in mid August

2010 marks the eighth annual return of 2003′s Mars In August email.

The email always says something about Mars appearing as large as the moon, but there are annual variations to the theme – one year a ridiculous Powerpoint mis-information file was attached to the email.

Sometimes the email mentions a particular date (like August 27th) when the moon and Mars will appear as two big moons. That date refers to when Mars was closest to Earth in 2003, and it did look quite large through a telescope back then. But even then, Mars was 36 million miles away from Earth, while the moon was about 250 thousand miles away. So it is just impossible for Mars to ever appear the same size as the moon!

The original email compared a telescopic view of Mars to a naked eye view of the moon. It never said Mars and the moon would appear to look the same size with the unaided eye. But every rewrite of the 2003 email omitted that telescope view comparison info. :-(

The email does give us a great opportunity to test our critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is a way to apply the scientific method to everyday life, and everyday life includes getting weird claims delivered to your own e-mail in-box. Here’s what you can do:

  • First, ask yourself a question — Is Mars going to be bigger than the moon in August this year?
  • Next, do some research. Read up on when Mars is closest to Earth in its orbit around the Sun. I’ve included some of this information in the link at the bottom.
  • Then construct your hypothesis. A hypothesis is your educated guess. It might be something like this. “If I look at the moon and Mars in August they will both appear the same size.”
  • Now, you can test your hypothesis by doing some experiments. Find the days when both Mars and the moon will be visible in the sky. Use the star chart above or check other online resources like this to find out when and where to look.
  • Analyze your data.
  • Draw a conclusion.
  • Finally, communicate your results!

Jane’s Mars In August Defense Kit

1 comment to Oh, no! Not the return of the Mars in August email :-(

  • Alice

    Hello there, thanks for clearing this up :) The problem is when you randomly see this e-mail or facebook link etc, you dont really sit and do a scientific critical thinking. So you fall to it for a second or until you wonder if it’s right? what time will it happen? Then you do a quick search up and understand the situation ofc.
    I just dont understand why does random “made up stuff” goes around all the time :)

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>