Here at JPL, phones are ringing off lots of different hooks with
members of the public asking about viewing Mars tomorrow night. I've
even received calls from scout leaders planning "Mars Spectacular"
viewing events. I wish there was a scout badge for critical
Some of you folks may be getting questions too, so I thought you
might like these sound bytes.
A misleading chain letter hoax has been going around since June 2005.
The subject line of the chain letter is often 'Mars Spectacular".
It's a recycled chain letter from 2003, but with the year omitted,
and additional misinformation added. The "date" of the special
viewing night, according to this email is tomorrow, August 27th.
August 27th was the date of Mars Opposition 2003. Some people read
chain letters, and without applying any critical thinking, assume
they must be true. Then they forward them to everyone they know, who
forward them.....on and on and on.
The email is recycled and refers to Mars at opposition August 27th
2003, 2 years ago.
Earth and Mars make a close approach every 2.2 years. Mars opposition
in 2005 is October 30, 2005.
NASA has this article about it: Beware the Mars Hoax
Sky and Telescope Magazine has this: Don't get snookered by Mars
2005 will be a spectacular year to view Mars at opposition, but not
this weekend. Mars will be a beautiful reddish "star" in the sky
early in the evening from late October 2005 through spring 2006.
Suggest that people contact a local science center or astronomy club
near that time for locations of Mars viewing events.
If people want to see Mars right now (and avoid embarrassment if they
planned an event Saturday night) they have to stay up late. Mars
rises in the east at about 11 p.m. and is high overhead at about 3
a.m. The last three mornings, Mars and the moon have been sharing the
sky, dancing together on the ecliptic plane of our solar system. Mars
is gorgeous in the western sky at dawn every morning.
There are two bright objects in the western sky right after the sun
sets right now. Some people may think one or the other is Mars.
They are not. Venus is the lower (and brighter) of the two and
Jupiter is higher and 6 times fainter. These are the planets to view
right now. Save Mars for later in the year.
I created a Mars 2005 page http://www.otastro.org/Mars2005/
becomes visible earlier in the evening, we'll be planning more
viewing events, and updating this page.
Mojo and I are off the to the Oregon Star Party tomorrow morning.
We'll be back
after labor day, and our next sidewalk dates are September 9th
Pasadena and September 10th Monrovia.
Jane Houston Jones
Senior Outreach Specialist, Cassini Program
JPL - 4800 Oak Grove Drive, MS 230-205
Pasadena, CA 91109 818-393-6435
Cassini Saturn Observation Campaign