Mars Hoax Returns
If no one has asked you about it yet, they probably will. A bogus e-mail chain letter, sometimes titled "Mars Spectacular," has been circulating around the Internet, as it did last year. It claims that on August 27th the planet Mars will dazzle the world, appearing brighter than ever in history and "as large as the full Moon to the naked eye."
Ironically, in late August 2006 Mars cannot be seen at all; it's hidden behind the glare of the Sun. In any case, to the naked eye Mars always looks like a star, not the full Moon.
As they orbit the Sun, the Earth and Mars make a close approach every 2¼ years or so. This time is called "opposition," because from our perspective on Earth, Mars then appears opposite the Sun in the sky. On average the two planets come within 48 million miles of each other. But because their orbits are elliptical (oval) rather than perfectly circular, the minimum separation between the two planets varies from one opposition to the next.
The Mars chain letter seems destined to get revived every August. I don't see this as a bad thing, I see it as a good thing. It's an immunization. If you make a fool of yourself by sending it to all your friends and family, you'll be less likely to send them the next e-mail chain letter you get, which may not be so harmless.
The first place to check for facts about any Internet rumor, hoax, or urban legend is www.snopes.com. Bookmark it!