Tonight Will NOT Be the Darkest Night in 500 Years and Here’s Why (Hint: It’s Science!)
Possibly two to three times a year, we get hit with a news story that people tend to go gaga for. It trends on Facebook, which, as we all know, has a deeply flawed newsfeed structure, and people talk about it in their social circles.
Today’s big news is that tonight will be the darkest night in over 500 years, but it’s time to set the record straight: Tonight is NOT the darkest night in 500 years. Not even close. In fact, tonight is just going to be a regular night leading up to a regular winter solstice and a regular shortest day of the year. But why is everyone getting this “fact” so wrong?
We’ve been hearing a lot about how fake news is spreading, but what people are talking about far less frequently is that, quite regularly, people share news items from months, weeks or even years ago, thinking that because they have just seen this information, that it must be recent. Case in point: today’s “news” that this will be the darkest night in 500 years, complete with a link to a scientific-looking iO9 article accompanying it. The science looks good and it even links to a number of journals!
This iO9 article is so interesting because at least five publications have shared their own version of this news to their readership today. Most likely someone’s friend of a friend shared it on FB, and some editors or writers looked at the title, thought “cool!” and shared again. Unfortunately, this is yet another case of people sharing a story without carefully reading the article, because if they had, they may have noticed that this post regarding the winter lunar eclipse was posted on December 20, 2010.
Yep, this dark night actually already happened… six years ago.
Doing a quick Google search for “2016 lunar eclipses” shows the last one happening in September of this year. There is no lunar eclipse tonight. Heck, if you google “darkest night in 500 years,” you’ll notice that basically every year since 2010, this article is shared on December 20, and people pass it off as current news. So, let that be a lesson: Before you hit “share,” check the date!
Have you ever shared fake or out-of-date news before? Tell us about it @Britandco!
(Photos via John Stanford, Dr. Fred Espenak / Getty)