Internet stories need verification

The Internet is a wonderful tool that provides next to limitless opportunities. Some, unfortunately, aren’t what they seem to be.
A Register reader thought she was a being helpful this week in a letter to the Forum telling about an unusual astronomical event. She wrote, “The Red Planet is about to be spectacular. Earth is catching up with Mars for the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. On Aug. 27, Mars will look as large as the full moon.”
That would indeed be extraordinary. It also would be catastrophic; gravitational tugs between the two planets would alter the Earth’s orbit and raise terribly destructive tides.
Fact is, it just isn’t true.
The NASA Web site set things straight.
“Here are the facts: Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter this year on Oct. 30 ... To the unaided eye, Mars will look like a bright red star, a pinprick of light, certainly not as wide as the full moon.”
NASA goes on to say that Mars did come its closest in recorded history on Aug. 27, 2003. Next month’s approximation will make the plant appear about the same as did then, although then it was 6.2 million miles closer, at 36.7 million miles.
E-mail messages traveling cyberspace that are untrue or pure hoaxes occur frequently. Even so, they are a fraction compared to those on the up and up.
It all goes back to the old saying, when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

— Bob Johnson