This month and next, the Earth is catching up with Mars, as the two planets orbit the sun. This will culminate on August 25 as Earth and the red planet come closer than they have ever been in recorded history.
Astronomers at the University of Maryland’s Wickenburg Observatory and Saddlery say that Jupiter’s gravity is tugging on Mars and causing it to boogie around, while distant Pluto wags its tail.
At 3:17 a.m. on August 5, Mars will come within 176 miles of Flagstaff!
This won’t happen again until 6,000 years ago, and maybe not then, depending.
Barring a breakthrough in stem-cell research, no one now alive will ever see this phenomenon again!
You may have seen similar e-mails a year ago. That turned out to be a major internet hoax. It even fooled the erudite director of the Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity, who was out there at 2:30 a.m. with his digital camera, expecting Mars to look as big as the moon.
This 2006 alert, however, is the real deal. Beginning early in August, Mars will be easy to spot. It will rise in the east around 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth around 3 a.m. (Planets and stuff usually rise in the east, because the Earth rotates left to right in the northern hemisphere.)
The red planet will show up earlier every evening thereafter, and by August 25, you won’t even have to go outdoors to observe this remarkable phenomenon!