Mars and Earth Converge
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 22 August 2007
06:07 am ET
By the time you finish reading this sentence, you’ll be about 25 miles closer to Mars, according to NASA calculations.

Earth and Mars are converging, setting up a great skywatching opportunity for later this year.

Here’s what’s going on: Earth has the inside track as the two worlds orbit the sun. Inner planets orbit more quickly than outer planets because of the laws of gravity. Earth requires 365 days to go around the sun once, whereas a year on Mars is 687 Earth-days.

So every 26 months, Earth passes Mars on this orbital trek.

When the pass occurs, Earth and Mars are on the same side of the sun, as seen from above, with all three objects lined up in a row, and astronomers say Mars is at opposition.

As our planet catches the red planet, the distance between them shrinks dramatically. (It’s an opportune time for sending missions to Mars, such as the recently launched Phoenix Lander.)

Right now, the distance between the two worlds is shrinking at a rate of 22,000 mph, or about 25 miles per sentence, NASA figures.

By late September, Mars will be one of the brighter objects in the night sky. The closest approach will occur in December, when Mars will be brighter than every star in the sky.

You might have heard that Mars will outshine our moon on Aug. 27. Not true. That rumor is rooted in an annual email that has come to be known as the Mars Hoax, one of the many enduring, mistaken ideas about the red planet.

Each August, various versions of the email land in inboxes all around the world. The hoax can be traced back to a 2003 event, when Mars and Earth were closer than they’d been in thousands of years. (At the risk of further fueling the rumor, here is an account of the 2003 event.) But the proximity was an incremental improvement, in terms of viewing Mars, compared to the vast distance that always separates the two worlds. Never can Mars even approach the brightness of the moon in our sky.

Instead, Mars will remain, as always, no more than a point of light to the naked eye. It’ll grow steadily brighter through this autumn. And in modest backyard telescopes later this year, the red planet will be revealed as a ruddy disk, and sharp-eyed observers might spot some detail.

Mars currently rises around 3 a.m. local time in the eastern sky.


10 thoughts on “THE MOON AND MARS

  1. Its a “Blue Moon”… They happen… This same configuration may not happen for another couple of hundred years but we get at least one “Blue Moon” a year… Since there are 13 full moons in a year. A Blue Moon is defined as two full moons in a single month.

  2. Okay, I get it now. Two different Mars Events in Two separate years and a stupid e-mail that keeps going around. Thanks Celtic Princess and Doctor Buzzard for clarifying it.

  3. Don’t feel bad Katie, I was just as confused, so was everybody at work that got the same e-mail. Glad someone clarified the whole thing.

  4. I guess I have been to busy to notice all of this, as usual, but it is an interesting event that is about to take place on the planet Earth. I am certainly glad that the Celtic Princess has Lucky7Star in the same realm that she is in, because all of this is overwhelming to the mass majority that just don’t get or “pay attention to” the Greater part of the Planet as a whole.

    As an Ordained Minister, I am beginning to find that I am losing myself to a New Age of a different reality.

  5. Most interesting blog you have here Celtic Princess and I have only read a 3rd of what you have written and I am having a brain overload. Da*m I didn’t realize I was so uninformed about about ten thousand things going on around me.

    I’m thinking right now I need to know if your brain is the size of Canada.

  6. Gee, that sounds like doom and gloom ,coming from you, Princess, but I understand the plight of Global warming, but I feel like an ant against the Oil Companies. I ride my bike back and forth to work and feel really anal putting the cart on the back to go to the store in the heat and humidity, every couple of days to get food, while the 10 billion SUV’s are loading weeks worth of grocery’s in the back of their vehicle.

    I certainly hope when it’s election time that the public realizes we are NOT “ONE NATION UNDER GOD”, but a diverse Nation Under One Government that uses us as citizens by claiming we are all equal.

    When everybody in the Country is equal, I swear Hell will Freeze over.

    Edit if you like Princess, but I am mad tonight after a few things that the City fined my elderly Grandmother for whose on Social Security, yet they couldn’t seem find some rich snob with license plate number, who hit my bike with his SUV, and left me to take the bus to work. This World is all about trees and paper they make money out of and nothing more. I am finding all of this a little archaic right now.

  7. Still getting the courage to voice my opinion on these blogs. I like this post, it’s honest in a confusing sort of way, but leaves me to think that the Celtic Princess at least tries to make sure the truth is told.

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