English astronomer Sir Patrick Moore pulled one of the biggest April Fools’ hoaxes of all time
On April 1 1976, he made an announcement on BBC Radio 2 stating that, at exactly 9:47 a.m., Pluto would pass directly behind Jupiter in relation to the Earth. This would create a noticeable reduction in gravity on Earth itself. He said that, if people jumped at this exact time, they would be overcome by a ‘strange floating sensation’.
This was known as the ‘Jovian-Plutonian effect’. For a lot of people, this sounded completely right and reasonable, despite just how ridiculous it was. And fair enough—it came from a pretty reliable source. The BBC reported getting a hell of a lot of calls from people all over the country telling them they were having bizarre gravitational experiences. One woman claimed that she and her friends were sitting and had ‘wafted from their chairs and gently orbited around the room.’ Another woman said that she and her eleven friends were sitting at a table—and soon enough, everyone (and the table) began to ascend. (Kind of Harry Potter-esque in that scene with the inflation of Marjorie Dursley.) The reason that Moore performed this hoax was really just to raise awareness of the fact that the whole idea of ‘planetary alignment’ and its effects on Earth are nonsensical.
‘Let us hear no more of this nonsense about the ‘planetary alignment.’ It happens every 170 years or so; nothing spectacular will be seen in the sky; and in the opinion of almost everyone, it can [a]ffect nobody and nothing.’ It’s strange how so many people thought it sounded right—but when it actual fact, it was completely wrong. I guess a lot of it has to do with the mind—although the phenomenon wasn’t real, in a way people believed in it and so it felt real. But a clever hoax on the part of Sir Patrick Moore nevertheless.