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Hurtling Toward Mars

Image: Art.com

August 21, 2007: By the time you finish reading this sentence, you'll be 25 miles closer to the planet Mars.

Earth and Mars are converging, and right now the distance between the two planets is shrinking at a rate of 22,000 mph--or about 25 miles per sentence. Ultimately, this will lead to a close approach in late December 2007 when Mars will outshine every star in the night sky. Of a similar encounter in the 19th century, astronomer Percival Lowell wrote the following: "[Mars] blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself."

Contrary to rumor, though, Mars is never going to outshine the Moon.

There is an email circulating the internet—called the "Mars Hoax" or the "Two Moons email"—claiming that Mars will soon swell as large as the full Moon, and the two will hang together side by side on the night of Aug. 27th. "Mars will be spectacular," it states. "No one alive today will ever see this again."

No one will see it, because it won't happen.

So … you should forget about Mars on August 27th, right?

Not so fast. While there won't be Two Moons on August 27th, there will be Two Eyes. At 3 o'clock in the morning on that date, Mars will rise in the eastern sky alongside the red giant star Aldebaran. The two red lights side-by-side will resemble two eerie, unblinking eyes. This is worth waking up for!

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