Skywatchers beware: A bogus e-mail message about the approach of the Red Planet Mars is making the rounds of the Internet-yet again.
This phony message claims that Mars will make a close approach of Earth and be as large as the full Moon this summer. Wrong!
This summer, don't expect the Red Planet to be anything but what it is normally-very small and faint to the naked eye.
According to Spaceweather.com, "The 'Mars Hoax' e-mail first appeared in 2003. It seems to resurface every summer.On Aug. 27, 2003, Mars really did come historically close to Earth. But the e-mail's claim that Mars would rival the Moon was grossly exaggerated. Every summer since 2003, the e-mail has staged a revival. It's as wrong now as it was then."
On the subject of Mars, a perceptive Champlain Valley Union High School student e-mailed me last week with a good question about the famous Mars Rock. He wants to know if claims of microfossils found within the rock are true.
Well, in 1996 NASA first announced the discovery of possible fossil nanomicrobes in the ALH 84001 meteorite (found in Antarctica); the ALH 84001 rock was blasted off Mars, by either an asteroid impact or a powerful volcanic eruption millions of years ago.
Since 1996, scientists have battled over NASA's ALH 84001 findings; many researchers booed NASA and came down on the "con" side.
What looks like worm-like fossils, they said, are just too small for lifeforms. Yet, certain extremely ancient fossilized microbes have been found inside Earth rocks; these terrestrial fossils are small enough to resemble the tiny Mars rock remains.
But what would Martian life look like if it exists? Personally, I think it's premature to dismiss NASA's fossil-life claims regarding the ALH 84001 Mars meteorite. There's a lot more we don't know about Mars than actually know about the planet-it remains a mysterious world that has yet to be geologically sampled first hand. Imagine having only a few pieces of Earth and then concluding our planet's entire geological and biological history from the fragments.