Monday, July 31, 2006

Not getting the memo

Back in late 2004, there was a bit of excitement over asteroid 2004 MN4, which was given the highest rating on the danger scale for hitting Earth. The reason for the high rating is that it's a pretty good sized chunk of rock (400m) and not a lot of observations had been made to predict its orbit precisely. Fortunately, an impact was ruled out, just in time for the new year.

But it seems that old rumors die hard. Dispite having been poo-poo'd almost 2 years ago, sites are still reporting the danger but for a 2039 collision. Apparently they didn't read the article saying 2004 MN4 "poses no other impact probabilities with the Earth through the rest of the 21st century."

The 2004 MN4 scare isn't the only rumor that's persisted. Back in 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in recorded history, giving astronomers, both professional and amateur and unprecedented view.

At that time, an Email began circulating stating that Mars would look "as big as the moon". Common sense should tell you that this is ridiculous. But amazingly enough, people started calling planetariums to find out about this event, disappointed to find out the truth.

But come summer 2004. The Email started circulating again. Snopes.com debunks it.

Summer 2005 and the Email is back!

And it seems that now, in 2006, the three year old Email is apparently still making the rounds. This time Universe Today has tackled the myth.

It seems that some people just don't get the memo. I expect that, until 2039, there will still be people saying that 2004 MN4 is still going to destroy all life on the planet, and that Mars is going to look like the moon.

10 comments:

Funkmon said...

I'm really digging this blog you've got, first off.

Secondly, this stuff is nothing new, and it's rather irritating. I'm sure, as you're an intelligent guy, it pains you to hear other people passing along false information as much as it does me.

Can you believe people think deoxygenated blood is blue?

Debunking these idiotic rumours and myths has garnered me a bad reputation in my workplace, as well as my school. I'm seen as arrogant, but I tell you it's worth it. I hate misinformation.

Jon Voisey said...

I get the same thing. Being more informed somehow makes me arrogant. I try very hard with this blog and even moreso to be as non-confrontational as possible about it so people won't get defensive just because they don't know everything and accuse me of being arrogant, or hide behind the bible.

Fraser Cain said...

After I made that post on Universe Today, I received a dozen emails from people who just then realized they'd been forwarding along a hoax. One version of the email had been turned into a really nice Powerpoint presentation.

We'll absolutely see it again next year.

Stephen said...

I wrote this up too.

I'm not angry. I treat the email as a starting point for conversation. I often get it from people who have interest, but who know little about it. Sometimes I have time to show them what the stars will look like on my Palm Pilot. Recently I got to use xephem, which has a solar system view - showing the orbits by looking down from the solar north pole. This let me answer the 'will Mars crash into the Earth?' simply, in a way that conveys how it really works.

Then they ask, "So if Mars won't be that good this summer, what is there to see?"

So Mars is firmly on the other side of the Sun this summer. Saturn too. Jupiter has been great. As we lose Jupiter, we'll gain Saturn. We'll have both for a bit. But there's always something to see. When I have a telescope and a clear night, I show the moon, planets, clusters and galaxies. My friends are into double stars, colored stars, nebulae and minor planets. Yes, this can consume the entire night. We'll do the good stuff first.

Jon Voisey said...

As much as I love looking at the planets, I've never had nearly as much interest in them as I do for nebulae, clusters, and galaxies. The immense size of such objects is just so much more awe inspiring.

Thus, when I take out my 8" SCT, my typical targets are objects from the Messier Catalogue. I'll generally sneak a quick look at any planets out, but don't generally dwell on them unless I have an audience who don't know enough yet to fully appreciate the fuzzy smudges that are galaxies, and the like.

Anonymous said...

I saw this in 03, 04, and 05. Last week one of my co-workers e-mailed it to me, knowing I like space and junk. I told her, yeah I've seen this rumor, and let me tell you it's not true. Mars is too far away, blah, blah, blah. I said, check out Snopes.com, they debunk stuff like that all the time. Her answer? "I don't trust those web sites." But, I guess she'll trust an e-mail? I swear, next time she sends a chain e-mail about our solders in Iraq needing a prayer, I'm gonna break the chain!!! :D

bswift said...

Yeah, I got that email a few days ago and immediately CCed all the addresses that I could find in body to set them straight (pointing to a few BA articles) and urged them to forward it to anyone they sent that awful email to. One girl even thanked me for it!

Stephen said...

I wrote this up too.

I'm not angry. I treat the email as a starting point for conversation. I often get it from people who have interest, but who know little about it. Sometimes I have time to show them what the stars will look like on my Palm Pilot. Recently I got to use xephem, which has a solar system view - showing the orbits by looking down from the solar north pole. This let me answer the 'will Mars crash into the Earth?' simply, in a way that conveys how it really works.

Then they ask, "So if Mars won't be that good this summer, what is there to see?"

So Mars is firmly on the other side of the Sun this summer. Saturn too. Jupiter has been great. As we lose Jupiter, we'll gain Saturn. We'll have both for a bit. But there's always something to see. When I have a telescope and a clear night, I show the moon, planets, clusters and galaxies. My friends are into double stars, colored stars, nebulae and minor planets. Yes, this can consume the entire night. We'll do the good stuff first.

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