Go Pro!

Ask Professor Puzzler

Do you have a question you would like to ask Professor Puzzler? Click here to ask your question!

It's been showing up in social media - on August 27th, 2015, there will be an amazing sight in the night sky; there will be a double moon! Why? Because Mars will appear as big as the moon on that day.

True? Or hoax?

Professor Puzzler says: HOAX!

Take a look at the image below to get a better idea of how crazy that would be:

In the picture you can see (roughly) the scaled sizes of Mars and the moon. Surprisingly, mars is only twice as big in diameter as the moon. (The distances are not on the same scale as the sizes, since that would result in a picture with a cone almost too narrow to see.)

In order for Mars to appear the same size as the moon, it needs to fit snugly inside the visual cone with apex on the surface of planet earth (where you're standing, looking into the night sky).

We could draw some similar triangles connecting the apex, the tangents to the two bodies, and the centers of the two bodies; since these are similar triangles, they have to have the same side ratios. What does that mean? It means that if the radii are in the ratio 1:2, the distances have to be in the ratio 1:2.

In other words, Mars would be about 500,000 miles from planet earth. Since, at its very closest, Mars is about 30 million miles from planet earth, Mars is going to somehow have to teleport itself a few million miles out of its orbit to appear that big to us on its one-night engagement as the moon's twin brother.

Of course, this sudden, dramatic appearance of a new celestial body in our orbit is going to cause some pretty drastic effects, including - I would imagine - significant tidal forces, volcanic eruptions, and earth quakes.

Let's hope this isn't going to actually happen!

[And presumably, after its one night visit, Mars is going to somehow teleport itself back, which will result in more gravitational disturbances the next day!]

Understanding Coronavirus Spread

A Question and Answer session with Professor Puzzler about the math behind infection spread.

Blogs on This Site

Reviews and book lists - books we love!
The site administrator fields questions from visitors.
Like us on Facebook to get updates about new resources
Pro Membership