Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools' Day 1976 - The Jovian–Plutonian gravitational effect

The Jovian–Plutonian gravitational effect is a hoax phenomenon stated to cause a noticeable short-term reduction in gravity on Earth that was invented for April Fools' Day by the English astronomer Patrick Moore and broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on 1 April 1976.

On 1 April 1976, Moore stated to radio listeners that an astronomical event would take place at 9:47 a.m. that day, a conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto, which was expected to have an effect observable everywhere. As Pluto passed behind Jupiter, it would briefly cause a powerful combination of the two planets' gravitationwhich would noticeably decrease gravity on Earth. If listeners were to jump into the air at that exact moment, they would find they felt a floating sensation.

Soon after 9:47 on that morning, the BBC began to receive hundreds of telephone calls from people reporting they had observed the decrease in gravity. One woman who called in even stated that she and eleven friends had been sitting and had been "wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room"

Hoax revealed

The hoax claims that the gravitational pull of Jupiter and Pluto combined will cause one to spend a significantly longer amount of time in the air due to an increase in gravitational pull from the distant planets, however this is incorrect. Although other planets do exert a gravitational pull on humans on Earth, the amount is incredibly small.

Although Jupiter is very massive, it is also very far away. When at its closest distance to Earth of about 600 million kilometers, Jupiter has a gravitational pull of 0.00013 Newtons on a person with a mass of 100 kg, according to Newton's law of gravity. This is roughly equivalent to the gravitational attraction of a compact car from half a meter away. Similarly, the gravitational pull of the dwarf planet Pluto on a person on Earth is roughly equal to that of a marble 100 meters away. Thus, the gravitational impact of the planets is far too small to be able to cause a person to weigh noticeably less, or stay in the air noticeably longer when jumping.


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