If you got on social media Monday, you probably saw videos and pictures of brooms standing up by the bristles.
The silly viral meme swept the internet — with some misinformation. Users claimed NASA said Monday was the only day brooms could stand upright due to the earth’s gravitational pull. But the agency never said that — and that’s not the explanation.
Still, many people — who’ve never tried standing up a broom? — learned one part of that claim was true by testing it out Monday. #Broomchallenge and #broomstickchallenge quickly went viral on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
One tweet got more than six million views, more than 243,000 likes and was shared more than 57,000 times.
Celebrities and sports teams even got in on the late-night fun.
But gravitational pull? NASA never made that statement.
“This is another social media hoax that exemplifies how quickly pseudoscience and false claims can go viral,” said Karen Northon with NASA in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
“While this hoax was harmless, it also shows why it’s important for all of us to do some fact-checking and research including checking in with NASA for real science fun facts before jumping into the latest viral craze.”
After all, a broom can stand upright anytime — today, tomorrow, any day of the week.
“If you can position it right, and if you know the type of broom you have, you can make it stand up,” said Ian Reid, a manager at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the earth’s gravity, but everything to do with the center of mass. So if you can angle it right, it doesn’t matter what time of the year.”
Reid said that explains why some had trouble getting their brooms to stand.
“That’s what science does,” he said. “It should lean some and it should fall because the center of mass is right above the bristles.”
Another myth that surfaced is that the trick was due to the vernal equinox, which happens twice a year in the spring and fall when the sun is directly above the celestial equator, and day and night are of equal length.
Although it’s true that during the vernal equinox the earth is more on a tilt, it would have had no effect on the broom.
In fact, this year in the Northern Hemisphere the vernal equinox is on March 19 and Sept. 22, Reid said.