• DIANA FERNANDA

    A moon for Mercury… (or not!) (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University/APL/Carnegie Institution of Washington). Spurious moons are apparently the “low-hanging fruit” of astronomical April Fools’ pranks.  In 2012, an image of a purported moon of the planet Mercury’s as discovered by the MESSENGER spacecraft appeared in the JPL Photojournal. The captioning declared the moon had been named Caduceus and was 70 metres in diameter. Perhaps such a prank is appealing because there’s nothing immediately outlandish about the idea. New moons get discovered periodically on first reconnaissance missions past planets. For a brief time in 1974, Mariner 10 project scientists did indeed think they had discovered a Mercurial moon.   Reading on through the press release, however, revealed that a collision course of MESSENGER with the moon was set to cause it to “arrive at Earth by 2014.”  The “moon” also bared a suspicious resemblance to the asteroid 243 Ida as seen by the Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft in 1993.Some April Fools’ hoaxes have presented ideas that have actually gained scientific traction in reality over the years. On March 31st, 2005, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website contained the teaser “Water on Mars!” for its next presentation to follow on the next day. A flurry of discussion followed; was there a discovery from the Spirit & Opportunity rovers forthcoming? We should’ve checked the calendar first. The next day, APOD featured water… in a glass, sitting atop a Mars bar. What’s ironic is that recent announcements from the Mars Science Laboratory support the idea of ancient water on the Red Planet, so the MSL may well have had the last laugh.

  • Angel Ramos

    NASA - Mooning Mercury (April Fool's Day)

More from this board

New Lunar Grazing Module (LGM), “a multi-purpose celestial bovine containment system” according to APOD. APOD admits that there aren't any plans to launch cows into space, So maybe that “the cow jumped over the Moon” story was an April Fool. Supposedly, it's an art work named "Mooooonwalk" on display at a popular science museum, but which one? (Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Nemiroff) Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

On April 1, 2004 Children's BBC announced that astronomers had decided to rename the planets in the Solar System after characters from the Lord of the Rings. Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Multiple frame picture of a meteoroid falling? Taken from the helmet camera of a Norwegian skydiver who was narrowly missed by the rock. Coming so close to April 1st, it sounds like a slightly belated April Fool. Experts examined video footage and said it was consistent with a meteoroid. But later it looked more likely that it was a piece of gravel in the parachute. (Credit & copyright: Anders Helstrup) Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

A New Constellation. April 1, 2003 [Credit: Hugo E. Schwarz (CTIO), NOAO] APOD reported that a new constellation was surprising star gazers. "Ollie the Owl has suddenly started dominating the southern hemisphere.” The bird perching on the Tololo All Sky Camera, which would have been funnier if the bird hadn't scratched the plastic dome. Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Water On Mars. On March 31, 2005, APOD showed the next day's picture as “water on Mars . . .” which did leave people wondering. This was before orbiters and rovers had gathered so much evidence for water on the red planet. April Fool! (Credit & Copyright: Ellen Roper (GCC)) Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Asteroid Ida and its satellite Dactyl. Image made from data collected by the spacecraft Galileo on its close approach to the asteroid (1993-08-28). Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

"Mercury's moon." March 31, 2012. It's a small bright spot in the discovery image, taken yesterday by the MESSENGER wide angle camera. The moon is about 70 m (230 ft) in diameter, orbiting Mercury at a mean distance of 14,300 km (8,890 miles). The name Caduceus, after the staff carried by the Roman god Mercury, is proposed to the IAU. (Credit: NASA) APRIL FOOL! Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

April Fool in space, 2010. The three-man crew of the International Space Station got a laugh from Mission Control with a photo of themselves spacewalking wearing not space suits, but slacks, T-shirts and sunglasses. (Hope they remembered the sunblock!) They were cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and astronauts Timothy Creamer (USA) & Soichi Noguchi (Japan). Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield holds up two objects that look like grenades as part of an April Fools' Day prank. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency/Chris Hadfield ) April 1, 2013. ( They're actual air sampling devices.) Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Chris Hadfield's grand April Fools' Day finale shows him posing with an alien that just stopped by the station to say hi. "I don't know what it is or what it wants, but it keeps repeating 'Sloof Lirpa' over and over. Alert the press." (April 1, 2013) Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Sir Patrick Moore (1923 - 2012). British astronomer, broadcaster and writer. Many astronomers - professional and amateur alike - credit Moore with getting them interested in astronomy. His 1987 April Fool about the Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect was a classic, and mocked a popular disaster book of the time. Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Sir Richard Branson flying the Virgin Galactic flag. On April 1, 2011 he announced that he had bought Pluto and had a plan to get it reinstated as a planet. He said, "Virgin has expanded into many territories over the years, but we have never had our own planet before. This could pave the way for a new age in space tourism." Mona Evans, "Astronomy April Fools" www.bellaonline.c...

Graphic of April Fool's Day asteroid 's orbit. 2012 EG5 came closer to the Earth than the Moon, but there was no danger of its hitting us.