On February 10 2020, memes and posts about a #BroomChallenge began circulating around Facebook, claiming that an arcane gravitational anomaly (usually chalked up to being caused by a “planetary alignment” or the “vernal equinox”) enabled people to stand brooms on end without tipping over. All sorts of people (and brooms) got in on the fun:
There is a rumor going around that @NASA said the earth is at such a perfect tilt or equinox that gravity can make broom sticks stand on its own. I tried it and…. #broomchallenge pic.twitter.com/HoeY9egIdQ
— MasterPsychicRachel (@MasterPsychic) February 11, 2020
While several of the posts cited the vernal equinox — the day of the year the sun crosses the celestial equator going north and which marks the official beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and kicks off autumn in the Southern Hemisphere — as the purported cause of standing brooms, the equinox would not be for more than a month, on March 19 2020 and furthermore, would not have any effect on whether a broom would stand on end.
Meteorologist Brad Panovich shared a post on his Facebook page debunking the “broom challenge”:
His post said:
I can’t believe people are falling for the #broomchallenge.
#1 Your Broom will do this any day of the year. It has to do with the shape of the bottom, not the Earth.
#2 The Tilt of the earth is always ~23.5° it never changes during the year. The orbit of the Earth around the sun causes Seasons.
#3 Social media makes us do silly stuff. 😊
Although a number of #BroomChallenge participants claimed that some sort of meteorological phenomenon caused their brooms to stand on end, that was likely confirmation bias at play; furthermore, the equinox, spring or fall, does not take place in February.