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What Is the Broomstick Challenge? Trend Sweeps Social Media Over Fake Link to NASA and Planetary Alignment

The broomstick challenge is the latest challenge to take over Twitter. The basic premise is that brooms and other objects can stand upright through a mysterious trick of gravity, but only on certain days of the year.

According to Twitter, the challenge came from NASA, who said that today—February 10, 2020—was the only day a broomstick can stand up on its own because of something to do with gravitational pull.

While a lot less dangerous than previous trends that have gone viral, like the Tide Pod challenge, the scientific reasoning behind it is equally shaky and there is no source from NASA supporting these claims.

Instead, it stems from a longstanding urban myth, or old wives' tale, claiming that every year on the vernal and autumnal equinox, eggs are able to balance on their ends. The rumor pops up most years, usually around the equinox, in some iteration or another and recently has taken the form of brooms instead of eggs. It has even made an appearance on a 2003 episode of The West Wing.

According to Snopes, the act of standing eggs upright on certain special days started in China. The reasoning behind this was that if you could stand the symbol of fertility (an egg) upright on the equinox—when daylight hours are equal to nighttime hours—nature was in balance.

However, the spring equinox takes place around March 20 and the autumn equinox takes place around September 22—so Twitter even got the date wrong. That didn't stop people from trying.

Celebrities got involved, with Ally Brook of Fifth Harmony fame, Colleen Ballinger (aka Miranda Sings) and Paula Abdul each having a go.

Some people got creative—playing with height and other objects, including crutches and knives.

Others poked fun at the challenge.

As the trend goes to show, it is possible to stand a broomstick upright without it instantly falling over. But if you could stand your broom up yesterday, you will also be able to stand your broom up today or any day of the year.

The urban myth has even gone through scientific testing. Astronomer Frank D. Ghigo studied the phenomenon, showing that it is possible to balance eggs on the equinox. He was also able to balance eggs on days that were not the equinox.

″The upshot is that, as far as I can tell, there isn't too much relationship between astronomical phenomena and balancing eggs," Ghigo told the AP—in 1987. "It is basically a function of the shape of the egg and the surface.″

And as for claims that NASA encouraged the challenge, there is no evidence that is the case.

Instead, it appears the whole trend may have started after someone overheard a video their roommate was watching.

The Broomstick Challenge
The broomstick challenge is sweeping social media after claims it's linked to NASA and planetary alignment. FooTToo/iStock
What Is the Broomstick Challenge? Trend Sweeps Social Media Over Fake Link to NASA and Planetary Alignment | Tech & Science