click here Greatest Myths, Hoaxes & Mysteries
The Greatest Myths, Hoaxes & Mysteries in Astronomy and Space Science
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer, space.com
25 March 2003
"Few scientific disciplines seem to generate as many mysteries and falsehoods as astronomy and, by extension, the supporting space science effort to explore the unknown. From alleged hoaxes and conspiracies to unintentionally inaccurate accounts, there is plenty to debunk and correct.
Some of the bad information out there is demeaning to real science, an affront to astronomers, astronauts and the general public. Allegations that the Moon landings were fake tops that list.
Some of the misinformation is just what it is, non-facts that manage to pop up again and again, either in our brains or in print, many of them perhaps because they seem logical enough. A classic example is the erroneous suggestion that meteors burn up due to friction with air molecules.
There are countless mysteries, too, things for which we simply don't have answers despite years or decades of investigation. Dark energy, life, and the origin of sex are but three puzzles astronomers contemplate. The universe is a complex place.
Because our weekly Science Tuesday presentations are intended to serve as reservoirs of interesting and factual news and information about the universe, I thought it would be useful to devote one installment to reviewing some of the many myths, outlandish claims, incorrect accounts and plain old enigmas related to nearby and distant cosmic objects and phenomena.
Below are just a few."
An amazing number of things that befuddle big-brained scientists
Life remains the greatest mystery of science. How did it start? Nobody knows. Does it exist elsewhere? Nobody knows. Now that astronomers have discovered planets orbiting other stars, the second question has taken on some added urgency, helping to spawn an entire new field called astrobiology. For now, astrobiologists are the only scientists I can think of who are more clueless than biologists, because they ask both of the biggest unanswered questions (the two above), whereas biologists mostly realize they have their hands full with the first one.
Bet you didn't expect to see this entry on a list devoted to space topics. It is here for a compelling reason and with substantial justification: We don't know why sex began . . .
Here's how space author Andrew Chaikin prefaced an article on this topic: "The irresistible, mind-boggling fantasy comes to just about everyone, sooner or later: What if everything we knew, our whole universe, was just a speck of dust on someone's shoulder?" . . .
The scary sounds of meteors
So why is there no South Star?
Stuff that's just not true or that is rooted in cloudy circumstances
"At the edge of the universe
The Sun has a companion, Nemesis
The Sun gets fatter as it sets
The Moon is bigger when on the horizon
Meteors burn up due to friction
A comet toppled ancient civilizations
There is no gravity on the Space Station
The Hubble Space Telescope pictures are totally real
Things that generate too much e-mail
The Moon landing never happened
Planet alignments bring gravitational doom
The "Face" on Mars
Planet X or a comet will destroy Earth