A fake news that first surfaced in 2015 is making the round of the Internet right after the Aug. 21 Total Solar Eclipse. The hoax cited NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as having issued a 1,000-page report that there will be 15 days of total darkness in November.

The total darkness was attributed to an astronomical event that involved the Jupiter and Venus that will go through a planetary alignment, Fortune reported. It was released by the fake news site Newswatch33 which is based in Nigeria.

Snopes debunks report

As early as 2015, the website Snopes, which debunks fake news.

It pointed out that the report is just an updated version of an old hoax that initially was posted by Newswatch33 in July 2015. The fake report said the one-in-a-million years' celestial event was supposed to begin on Nov. 15, 2015, at 3 a.m. and end on Nov. 30, 2015, at 4:15 p.m.

Newswatch33 resurfaced the hoax news this week when a total solar eclipse happened on Aug. 21. The duration of total darkness lasted only around two minutes and was seen in 14 states of the US, not throughout the entire Earth.

Newton’s law of motion

Fortune noted that real eclipses are easy to predict which NASA had done. It begins with astronomers working out the geometry and mechanics of how the Earth and Moon orbit the Sun under the influences of the gravitational fields of the three bodies.

The NASA experts use Isaac Newton’s law of motion to work out the motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun mathematically.

They take into account the finite sizes and imperfect spheres of the three bodies, and that the Moon and Earth are not homogeneous bodies. After careful observation, the astronomers feed the current positions and speeds of the Earth and Moon into complex equations.

They then program the computer to integrate the equations backward and forward the ephemerides of the relative positions of the Sun and Moon from the Earth’s vantage point.

The forecast of the NASA experts can be accurate to less than a minute for several hundreds of years. Fortune explained the popularity to the science literacy gaps wherein people lose the ability to distinguish real and credible news from a hoax.

President Donald Trump himself could also not distinguish real news from fake news. The billionaire describes stories that are critical of his administration as fake news. He has also tweeted more than 1,000 times based on wrong data. Is it surprising that the average social media user also could not distinguish a hoax report from the real scientific news?