Spnews! (Space News)

Mars growing to the size of the full moon, and Stargate shrinking to a tiny cultural blip.

Continuing on from my astronomy related ranting from the other day, there’s apparently some emails floating around saying that on the 27th (this coming Sunday) Mars is going to be visible in the night sky at “the size of the full moon“. The fact that people would not only believe this but email it on to their friends with nary a logical thought about the matter only re-enforces my point about the absolutely woeful state of astronomical knowledge in the general community.

Mars is not going to be the size of the full moon on Sunday night. In fact Mars is hardly going to be visible at all on Sunday night, since it’s on the other side of the sun at the moment. If Mars ever was the size of the full moon as seen from Earth, then keeping an eye out for it on Sunday night would be the least of our concerns – we’d be too busy dealing with the earthquakes, tsunamis and tidal surges resultant from such a Velikovskian re-ordering of the solar system.

What’s even sillier about the idea is the implication that Mars would be this size for One Night Only! That’s right, just for Sunday night the entire planet would swoop billions of miles across the solar system to give us a show, then fly back into place before sundown on Monday. If Mars was going to be that big on Sunday it would have been getting steadily bigger over the last four or five years at least – it’d already be pretty much the size of the full moon now people.

The confusion has arisen from some badly formatted information about the close approach of Mars back in August 1993. Someone wrote an article saying that when viewed through 75x magnification the planet would be the size of the full moon. Unfortunately someone stuck a paragraph break after the magnification bit, and so the story was born. What’s really annoying is that this misinformation has been trotted out every August since.

It’s a real shame the public seem to lack the ability to think before hitting “forward” on their email programs. *sigh*

In other news it appears that Stargate-SG1 has been axed. This is sad, but probably a long time coming. Most of the original cast are gone, and (not having seen it it several years admittedly) I believe the plot has been floundering around distractedly for quite some time. In its heydey SG1 was smart, groundbreaking Science Fiction, but those days are gone now and it’s finally time to say farewell to our old friend. Vale Stargate! We’ll miss you and what you used to be.

(I’m at work, writing in my lunchbreak so my time is limited. I may get around to writing a proper Eulogy for SG1 at some point over the next few days. Maybe)

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