The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
The Cradle of the Deep, a literary hoax, 1929
BMW's April Fool's Day Hoaxes
Eccentric's last prank, 66 years after his death, 1900
What do the lines on Solo cups mean?
The Case of the Vanishing Belly Button, 1964
Rare planetary alignment decreases gravity, 1976
The Diaphote, a television hoax, 1880
The Great Blackout of 2003
On August 14, 2003, a blackout hit the northeastern United States. Almost the next day a photo began circulating online claiming to be a NASA satellite image of the event. The entire United States could be seen, with dots of light revealing major population centers -- except for the northeastern corner of the country, which was covered in inky blackness.

The picture was a hoax. It was an altered detail from an image that had appeared on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website on November 27, 2000 (and again on August 10, 2002). The original image, titled "Earth at Night," was a composite made by combining hundreds of photos taken by Defense Department meteorological satellites in order to show what the entire surface of the Earth at night would look like from space. The hoaxer had simply cropped the photo to show only the United States (middle) and then had darkened the relevant portion to simulate a blackout.

In reality, the blackout did not create such a total zone of darkness. Actual satellite images taken during the blackout by NOAA satellites (bottom) show many areas, such as Boston, where the lights were still on.

Links and References
Astronomy Picture of the Day, November 27, 2000.
Earth's City Lights, NASA.

All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.