Jovian–Plutonian gravitational effect
The Jovian–Plutonian gravitational effect, a hoax phenomenon stated to cause a noticeable short-term reduction in gravity on Earth, was an invention for April Fools' Day by the English astronomer Patrick Moore broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on 1 April 1976.
Patrick Moore (4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012) was the doyen of British television astronomers, boasting a long career in public service broadcasting, a quick-fire manner of speech, and a number of eccentric habits, including the wearing of a monocle. A wartime navigator in the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1945 and has presented BBC Television's The Sky at Night programme since 1957. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1968. Above all, Moore has a high level of public recognition in the United Kingdom as a respected astronomer.
Pluto is so small and so remote from the Sun and the Earth that it was not discovered until 1930. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union reclassified it as a dwarf planet, deciding that it belongs to a belt of many similar small objects.
Events of April 1976
On April 1, 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' gravitation which 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".
|“||Patrick Moore was an ideal presenter to carry off an astronomical hoax. As weighty as Richard Dimbleby, with an added air of batty enthusiasm that only added to his credibility...||”|
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- Tombaugh, Clyde W., The Search for the Ninth Planet, Pluto (Astronomical Society of the Pacific Leaflet No. 209, July 1946) reprinted in Mercury vol. 8, no. 1 (January/February 1979) pp 4-6
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- Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity online at museumofhoaxes.com (accessed 10 October 2013)
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- Fooling around, book extract in The Guardian dated March 30, 2007, online at books.guardian.com (accessed 27 March 2008)
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- Moore, Patrick, & Tombaugh, Clyde W., Out of the Darkness, the Planet Pluto (Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Books; and London, Lutterworth Press, 1980)
- Tombaugh, Clyde W., Pluto in The Astronomy Encyclopaedia, ed. Patrick Moore (London, M. Beazley, 1987)
- sirpatrickmoore.com - official site