Martian Hoax Still Spreading

A gigantic Carl Sagan holds the planet Mars in his hands. Or it might just be a model. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I spent the July 4 weekend with family. During this time I learned that the planet Mars would shortly move closer to the Earth than it has in all of recorded history -- so close, in fact, that it would appear as large as the moon in the night sky. I was also informed that scientists were unsure what kind of catastrophic effects this would have on our planet.

Fear not, Earthlings. This isn't happening. It's a hoax, making the rounds again this summer after first winding up in e-mail inboxes in 2003.

Mars is roughly twice the size of our moon, with a diameter of about 4,213 miles. As an informative article on points out, for Mars to appear as large as the moon to us , it'd have to move in to a distance of 476,000 miles, which is twice our distance from the moon. Mars currently keeps a distance of around 189 million miles, farther away than when the hoax spread in 2003.

Mars isn't going to pull a catastrophic drive-by on us. Its denizens aren't attacking our cities and there's no giant carving of a human face there. Learn more and test your space knowledge at How Mars Works How the Mars Exploration Rovers Work Mars Quiz Moon Quiz Why do people believe the moon landings were a hoax? Top 10 Space Conspiracy Theories

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.