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Rumors of upcoming "days of darkness" in December exploded online after gullible netizens took a satire news article for gospel truth.
The "days of darkness" hoax seems to be an annual nuisance of sorts for NASA, which has had to dismiss such fearmongering on a regular basis.
On October 24 this year, satire news site Huzlers.com said that NASA administrator Charles Bolden had "confirmed" that the Earth will be plunged into six days of darkness—stories on other sites reported just three days—following a solar storm in December.
Few people apparently bothered to double-check the website, which openly describes itself as a satire site on its front page:
Huzlers.com is a combination of real shocking news and satirical entertainment to keep its visitors in a state of disbelief.
A close inspection of the NASA website also reveals that the agency never released any official statement, contrary to Huzlers.com's claim.
Many people even shared a link to a YouTube video of Bolden supposedly warning the public about the impending blackout:
However, while Bolden does talk about the need for preparedness for natural disasters, he never mentions anything about worldwide blackouts nor any similar global catastrophe.
Nevertheless, the hoax spearheaded by Huzlers.com quickly gained traction online over the weekend.
A semi-annual nuisance for NASA
This is not the first time that NASA has been falsely quoted.
The only instance where NASA mentions "days of darkness" on its website is in a 2011 FAQ debunking a similar doomsday rumor concerning Comet Elenin's passage close to Earth that year.
The agency was inundated again by doomsday fearmongers in 2012 after NASA supposedly confirmed that the Earth would be plunged into darkness after passing through a "photon belt" on December 21 that year.
This prompted an exasperated David Morrison, a senior astrobiologist at NASA, to say:
As far as the NASA confirmation claim, clearly none of these questioners bothered to look on the nasa.gov website to see if this was true. Also, none apparently was concerned that this amazing announcement from NASA was not reported in the newspapers or TV news.
The final word
Venerable mythbusting website Snopes.com had the last word on the hoax:
No, the universe is not about to realign in December 2014, nor will there be a multi-day blackout at that time during which the Earth will shift into a new dimension.
Neither NASA nor any other credible scientific entity has made such a pronouncement.
— GMA News