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NASA takes on the #Broomstick Challenge

February 11, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: NASA said Feb. 10 is the only day of the year that a broom can stand on its own.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. NASA did not make that claim, but the U.S. space agency did take time Tuesday to address the false assertion as it spread widely on Twitter. Turns out, it’s just a balancing act and the date has no relation.

THE FACTS: Social media users began circulating the claim citing NASA Monday along videos and photos showing a variety of brooms being balanced. Some posts tied balancing brooms to gravitational pull and others said it was the tilt of the Earth.

NASA spokeswoman Karen Northon told The Associated Press in an email that the posts, which circulated widely on Twitter and Facebook, proved the importance of checking with reliable sources before spreading information online.

“This is another social media hoax that exemplifies how quickly pseudoscience and false claims can go viral,” she said.

NASA knocked down the #BroomstickChallenge claim on its official Twitter account Tuesday, posting that “basic physics works every day of the year_ not just Feb. 10.” The tweet featured a video of Astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble making a broom stand on its own. “It’s just physics,” Drew said in the video uploaded to Twitter Feb. 11.

NASA Earth, a separate Twitter account, also addressed the claim stating, “there’s no special gravity that only affects brooms.”

The broom challenge myth has existed online for years. WIRED debunked the claim in 2012 with a story titled “Balancing brooms: it’s not about the planets.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536