As you may have already heard, Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been in the last 59,619 years. Everybody was touting how if you looked up towards the sky at 2:51am PST, you would be seeing Mars at its closest point to Earth. Well, everybody was wrong.
At this point, you may think that I might be referencing the fact that the time should really be 2:51 and 14 seconds, or something like that. But no, NASA, as well as a majority of news reports incorrectly stated the time by over 3 minutes.
Three minutes!! How could a fallacy this great come about? Well, it’s very simple. Almost everybody forgot to account for time dilation, that is, the amount of time it takes light to travel from Mars to Earth. At 34.6 million miles away, it takes light an astounding 186.02 seconds to travel to Earth (34,600,000/186,000 ≈ 186.02). So unless you were looking towards the sky at 2:54.06 am PST, you missed out.
Don’t fret, Mars will perigee in another 2287 years.