A message circulating online claims there will be a rare planetary alignment on January 4, 2014, known as "zero gravity day" in which people will experience a moment of weightlessness. Is this true or false?
It’s a hoax.
Let’s first take a look at the story in circulation:
It has been revealed by the British astronomer Patrick Moore that, on the morning of January 4th 2014, an extraordinary astronomical event will occur. At exactly 9:47 am, the planet Pluto will pass directly behind Jupiter, in relation to the Earth. This rare alignment will mean that the combined gravitational force of the two planets would exert a stronger tidal pull, temporarily counteracting the Earth’s own gravity and making people weigh less. Moore calls this the Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect.
Moore told scientists that they could experience the phenomenon by jumping in the air at the precise moment the alignment occurred. If they do so, he promised, they would experience a strange floating sensation.
Astronomers have long been aware that there would be an alignment of the planets on that date, when Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto would be on the same side of the Sun, within an arc 95 degrees wide. But now the effect could be expected as the gravitational effect of the other planets on the Earth’s crust is maximum even at their closest approach.
If you think you will be able to float around your house then you will be mistaken. BUT if you jump in the air at 9:47AM local time on January 4th 2014, it should take you about 3 seconds to land back on your feet instead of the usual 0.2 seconds.
January 4th 2014 will be a popular day for crazy stunts going on youtube. Do you have any ideas for stunts?
Twitter hashtag #ZeroGDay
This is merely a resurgence of an April Fool’s joke that dates back to 1976 by Sir Patrick Moore. Moore was an English amateur astronomer who rose to prominence as a writer and talk show host on the subject.
On April 1, 1976 Moore told radio listeners that at exactly 9:47am, Pluto and Jupiter would be in alignment, creating reduced gravity on earth at the moment the smaller planet passed behind the larger one. Moore told the audience that anyone who jumped at this time would briefly float in the air. Hundreds of listeners called in after the “event” to describe how they did in fact float at the given time.
Moore’s joke has been cited as one of the greatest April Fool’s jokes of all time. Although the hoax has resurfaced in 2013, the explanation – even the same time of day – Moore gave back in 1976 has remained unchanged.
Sir Patrick Moore passed away in 2012 at the age of 89.
Zero Gravity Day is merely the resurgence of a hoax which dates to April Fool’s Day 1976.
- The Guardian Book of April Fool’s Day (Martin Wainwright, The Guardian: March 29, 2007)
- Planetary Alignment – 1976 (Dan Fletcher, TIME: April 1, 2011)
- January 4, 2014 Zero Gravity Day: Planetary Alignment Debunked (Daily Post: December 22, 2013)