August 27, 2007

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Greek Globes, Astronomical Ignorance

Eclipsed Moon image by Anthony Ayiomamitis, Athens, Greece, and Mars image by George Tarsoudis, Alexandroupolis, Greece

The emails keep coming, forwarded by astronomy-illiterate friends and strangers. Mars will appear as big as the Moon in the sky tonight, just as in the composite image above. What a wondrous sight it would be, and what a stupendous failure of science literacy it represents. I’ve received the giant Mars email from students at Ivy League colleges - people who should have learned something about the solar system. Is it just naiveté in believing any halfway authoritative online statement? Is there no evaluation of statements, just acceptance? Another similar fraudulent statement is the beautiful image of a huge crescent Moon over a tiny Sun in the Arctic. Except that it is an electronic painting, not a reality at all. The artist did not claim it was our Moon, Earth and Sun, but some prankster did and many other people uncritically believed and redistributed it. In the US there is a crisis in science understanding and even in respect. These persistent fraudulent science claims may convince people that science cannot be trusted. And in fact, all statements - scientific, political or otherwise - should be questioned to see if they are consistent with common sense and other knowledge. We, as amateur astronomers, have the opportunity to explain to our friends and ignorant local news media the truly astonishing facts about the Moon and astronomy, and gently debunk these frivolous stupidities.

Chuck Wood

Technical Details:
Anthony comments: Mars will be 7.94″ in diameter this Monday, our moon will be 1928.44″ (or 243x larger in apparent diameter), and the closest similarity between these two celestial bodies is the colour of the moon during next week’s eclipse.
I hope that Anthony and George and all my Greek astronomer friends survive the dreadful fires that attack Athens. I am sure they all will welcome a return to clear skies.

Related Links:
Anthony’s website
George’s website
Giant Mars Myth
Mars and the Moon compared

Yesterday's LPOD: A Faulty Story

Tomorrow's LPOD: A Whole New Moon


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