""Saturday, August 26, 2006
The "Mars hoax" is back.
A widely circulating e-mail that gets revived each summer says that Mars on Sunday will be "as large as the full moon to the naked eye" and that it will be "the closest approach" between Earth and Mars in recorded history.
Not true. But don't miss a real close encounter before dawn between two other planets this weekend.
Mars isn't in our neighborhood, instead being a distant 239 million miles away on the other side of the solar system.
The planet's closest approach to Earth in the past 60,000 years occurred on Aug. 27, 2003, when it was about 35 million miles away. Even then, the planet appeared to the naked eye as a bright reddish-orange star -- nothing like the size of the moon.
For a real astronomical sight, get up before dawn Sunday and look low in the eastern sky. Venus and Saturn will be less than 1 degree apart. Venus is the brighter and lower of the two planets -- use binoculars to get a better look. -- Richard L. Hill ""