During close approaches, can Mars appear in our sky as large as the Moon? (Beginner)

I received an email saying that Mars will come within 35 million miles of the Earth in August of 2006, and that it will look as large as the full Moon to the naked eye. Can this be true? I don't know much about this but I know that generally Mars looks like a star, so I figure it would have to be pretty close to look like the Moon.

No, this is not true. Snopes has a good article about this. (I always check Snopes whenever I get an email like this, and they almost always set me straight.)

There are two problems: First of all, the event people are talking about -- Mars' close approach to the Earth -- occurred in 2003, not in 2006. Secondly, however, even in 2003, there was only a very tiny visual difference. Mars was nowhere near as large as the Moon in our sky. What was true was that with a modest telescope with 75x magnification, an amateur astronomer would be able to see Mars as large as the Moon looks using only the naked eye.

This page was last updated on July 18, 2015.

About the Author

Ann Martin

Ann Martin

Ann finished her PhD at Cornell in May 2011, and has been a Curious volunteer since 2006. For her dissertation, she studied the distribution of hydrogen-rich galaxies in the nearby Universe using data from the Arecibo Observatory. Since then, she has been working on science education and public outreach projects for NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

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