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Bogus E-Mails Regarding Mars' Close Approach

Myths & LegendsUpdate: 6 YOU GOT IT! It's back once again
Update: 5 Yep, it's BAAAACK!

Mars Hoax rises Ugly, Gullible Head ONCE AGAIN for 2010! LOL...........It MUST be August!

Update 4: July 10, 2009.....and AGAIN, and AGAIN, AND AGAIN WHEN WILL IT END? Probably won't ever end as long as people don't think before they send misinformation on to others or to other groups. PLEASE READ AND SEND THIS ON TO SOMEONE EACH TIME YOU HEAR THIS HOAX.

UPDATE 3: August 3, 2007 AND.....HERE WE GO AGAIN! Will this crap NEVER END?

For the last FOUR years, this email has surfaced. Its a LIE!

UPDATE 2: August 15, 2006 Every August for the last three years, these crazy emails have started floating around, and people who simply don't know the difference just send them on to their circle of friends without ever trying to learn whether it's the truth they're sending, or whether its just more BOGUS EMAILS

UPDATE 1: AUGUST 10, 2005....The Astronomy Picture of the Day for August 8 echoes my article. They, too, wonder how people can believe these things. Check it out at: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap050808.html
Or what NASA Science News says at:http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/25aug_marshoax/
Have you received any email messages about a close approach of Mars?

(Originally posted Aug 2004)

How can people be so easily conned into thinking that Mars could EVER be seen as big as the Moon? It boggles my mind that anyone could do this, but sadly it's true. I have received essentially this same email 20 or more times in the last two years (now 3 years as of 08/15/06). It comes from friends and strangers alike. Those friends that understand that this is bogus laugh along with me, and those that don't know the difference we try our best to help them understand the truth about what's really happening.

On August 27, 2003, Mars came closer to Earth than it had been in nearly 60,000 years. At 4:51 am that Thursday morning, Mars had closed the distance to only 34,646,418 miles away from Earth. From that moment onward it began pulling away again. It had also been close in 2001, as well as in 1988, and 1971. To be completely accurate, Mars comes close to Earth about every two years, or every 25.6 months. Mars is coming close to Earth again this November 7th, (2004) when it'll be "only" a little over 43,000,000 miles away. It will be better positioned for northern hemisphere observers all winter long this time.
Mars and Earth both have elliptical orbits around the Sun. However, Earth's orbit is MUCH closer to being truly circular than Mars orbit, and due to this difference in our orbits we keep making these close approaches about every 780 days. This is something that can be called a cycle since it happens with a certain periodicity. We also share a couple other periodicities with Mars. There is a cycle that happens roughly every 15 years when we make an otherwise very close approach to Mars. Another little twist to this 15 year cycle concerns every third or fourth cycle when it's a 17 year period since the last close approach. There are other peculiarities about these cyclical orbital oddities that conspire to give us the rare passages like we had in 2003. But the record from 2003 will not be exceeded for 284 more years until 2287 A.D.!

We have an excellent book in the AOAS library called, "More Mathematical Astronomy Morsels", by Jean Meeus, the world renowned mathematician who tinkers with these ultra-precise measurements of all things astronomical. These complex mathematical formulas that describe the periodicities above may be viewed in his book which paid members may check out if anyone is interested.

But the whole point of this little story is to help everyone understand that when you receive another copy of this bogus and highly misinformed email, just reply to the sender and ask them to check out our AOAS.org website and this article. It's kind of funny, even silly to keep seeing this email message again and again, over and over, but it's a constant reminder of how many people don't understand what's going on in the solar system. This is a condition that AOAS is always trying to help remedy, and we hope that everyone will think of accessing our website for items regarding astronomical objects, reports and happenings. If we can't answer your questions immediately, we'll look up the answer and try to help you understand it for yourself as well.

Next time you hear this hoax, send this to your friends and associates. Check us out the next time you hear that Mars will be as "big as the Moon" or "closer than it's been in 50,000 years". It may just turn out to be total Toro-poopoo, and that's no bull! Aug 28 2010
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Busting Another MYTH - The Eye of God?

Myths & LegendsI received another of those ridiculous "chain-letter style" emails this week. It tells me that by looking at an image of a celestial object, wonderful things will happen in my life. Do I believe it? Not in a million years!
Is this the "Eye of God"? No. But through the power of suggestion, those who don't know better may be influenced to believe that somehow, it IS!

You can not imagine how I laughed when I saw this email this past week. Similar to the old "chain letter" scams I'm urged to send this on to at least 7 other people, presumably those that I care about. It says that this photo "is a very rare one, taken by NASA." The words further claim that "this kind of event occurs once in 3000 years", and it will somehow "[do] miracles in many lives" and all we have to do is look at the picture and "Make a wish" because you have just gazed upon "The Eye of God".

Whether I believe this email's claims or not, I'm encouraged to send it out to "at least 7 people" and I should expect wonderful things to happen in my life within 24 hours. HOGWASH!!!

This image is of a planetary nebula known famously as "The Helix Nebula", and it's anything but rare. The Helix has been known to exist and has been under constant observation around the planet since the 1700's. There is no "event" here that occurs every 3000 years unless maybe it's that another star in our particular region of the Milky Way galaxy finishes using its supply of nuclear fuel and finally dies to create another similar-looking nebula. I understand enough about the processes, and the number of available stars in our area, and how often such nebulas occur to say with confidence that there are more likely hundreds of similar objects produced every 300 years, and many, many more would be likely in 3000 year timespan. There is absolutely nothing special, or unusual, or devine about this object.

I'm not blind. I do see a very unmistakable resemblance to a human eye, and a blue one at that. But with all that redness around the edges, it looks a little irritated. A good candidate for Visine. The Hubble Space Telescope has to do some tricky maneuvering to even get an object of this size completely covered for the entire image. Hubble's field-of-view is only about 1/20th of the area covered in this image. Closer inspection of the individual frames by Hubble revealed delicate "comet-like" protrusions around the inside perimeter of the Helix all pointed away from the central white dwarf star that ejected this material several thousand years ago. (see the next image)

Click read more for the rest of this story, and for a website dedicated to helping debunk all similar myths like this one.
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Name a Star; Buy a Star.... Buyer Beware!

Myths & Legends
Can a STAR be Sold?
Can a STAR be Named?
Before you "buy a star" OR "name a star", understand what it is you're buying. Stars are not "named" or "sold" and the companies and/or individuals that advertise to an unsuspecting public that they can "buy" or "name" a star do so with the utmost incredulity.

The MOST outrageous thing I've ever seen in the hobby of amateur astronomy, is the buying or naming of stars for profit. There are places in the world, be they so-called "companies" or individuals, that will SELL anyone a star for a price. They know full well that they can't actually sell stars, and for an unsuspecting public that doesn't understand any better, it's caveat emptor....BUYER BEWARE!

Amateur astronomers around the world have encountered the problem involving the "sale" of stars. Stars are NOT sold, nor are they named for people or by people. The stars in the sky do carry one or more designations assigned by institutions that are recognized as having the ability to do this. Astronomers and astrophysicists establish the criteria for assigning different designations to stars through an organization known as the International Astronomical Union, and the entire world of professional Astronomy and Astrophysics accepts these legitimate designations.

Many of the brighter stars in the sky do have names. Accepted star names are either Greek, Arabic, or Latin in origin. Let's take for instance, the star Mizar in the constellation of Ursa Major. Mizar is the middle star in the handle of the Big Dipper, which is an asterism. An asterism is an easily identifiable group of stars which resemble something familiar. The seven stars of the Big Dipper are just the brightest of all the stars that comprise the complete constellation of Ursa Major, which depicts a large bear. Consider all the following things that involve the star Mizar and its many proper designations.

Mi 'zar is an Arabic word which translates to "girdle" as in the middle of the handle. Many stars in the night sky have Arabic names, and that's another complete story altogether. But Mizar has other official designations, such as Zeta Ursae Majoris (latinized version of its Bayer* designation), HIP 65378** (its designation in the Hipparchos catalog), and a few others. All these designations are different ways of referring to the exact same star, the star that resides at 13h 23' 55", by +54d 55' 31.5" on the celestial sphere. These coordinates may be considered extensions of map coordinates that depict latitude and longitude on a world map.

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