25 December 2014

The "Zero G Day" Hoax

Fake tweet
I enjoy the occasional science hoax, and the resurgence of the "Zero G Day" hoax brings a smile to my face. It is a claim that on January 4th, 2015 at 9:47 PST, gravity on Earth will be momentarily diminished due to an alignment of Pluto and Jupiter. There is just enough science in the claim to make many believe it could be true, but in fact it's far from the truth, just a fun prank started by the astronomer Patrick Moore years ago. Nonetheless, if thousands of people jump at that moment, we can test out the theory that the Earth might move if everyone jumped at once, a scientific idea explored well by the science video series from Vsauce.

I like this hoax almost as much as the "Mars will be bigger than the Full Moon" hoax that surfaces every year. It's getting harder to separate fact from fiction in our socially-networked world. I look to Slate's Phil Plait and his Bad Astronomy blog for this, along with snopes.com.

23 December 2014

Moon and Mars

Moon and Mars
The lunar month starts with the slim crescent Moon glowing in the western sky, sweeping past the bright orange beacon of Mars and the faint stars of Capricornus. Venus is just starting to appear in the west after sunset, so if you have a clear view of the western horizon, look for it shortly after sunset. It will soon be higher and easier to spot as 2014 comes to an end.

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope.