Saturn Close to Earth on June 1st? No, It’s a Hoax

Circulating report claims that, come June 1st, Saturn will be closer to Earth than it has been in over 10,000 years and its appearance in the sky will be ‘unlike any other astronomical sight people have seen’.  The report, which claims that the information was confirmed by NASA, features an image that depicts Saturn filling the sky above a city.

Brief Analysis:
The claims in the report are utter nonsense. Saturn will not be closer to Earth than it has for 10000 years in June 2016. Nor has the story been confirmed by NASA. And, of course, Saturn will not dominate the sky on June 1st as depicted in the fanciful image. The false story originates from a clickbait fake-news website called now88news.

THE WORLD WILL SEE SATURN CLOSE TO EARTH ON JUNE 1ST 2016NASA has confirmed that on June 1st, Saturn will be closer to Earth than it has been in over 10,000 years, with a spectacle that will be “unlike any other” astronomical sight people have seen.Saturn close to Earth hoax

Detailed Analysis:
According to a report that is rapidly making its way around the interwebs via social media, on June 1st 2016, Saturn will be closer to Earth than it has been in over 10,000 years. The report claims that NASA has confirmed the information. It quotes an alleged NASA spokesman called ‘George Pooler’ as explaining that ‘Saturn does not often come this close to Earth, and this will be a sight no one currently living has ever seen’.  The report features an image that depicts an impossibly close Saturn dominating the sky above a large city.

But, alas, the claims in the report are total nonsense. Saturn will not be closer to Earth than it has been in over 10,000 years on June 1st, NASA did not confirm the story, and there is no record of a NASA spokesperson called George Spooler making any such comments. And, of course, Saturn will certainly not fill the sky as depicted in the fanciful image that comes with the report.

This version of the story originates from a fake-news website called ‘now88news’. The site includes the following disclaimer:

The content of the pages of this website now88news is for your general entertainment, information and use only. It is subject to change without notice. This website and its content is classed as satire and not factual information.

The site also declares itself to be ‘Satire News’ in the footer of its pages.  However, many readers will not see the disclaimer or scroll down far enough to see the footer. Thus, people are apt to take the site’s reports seriously and share them via social media.

Alternative versions of the  false report have been republished on several other fake-news or ‘entertainment’ sites. A variant of the story has also circulated in the form of a social media meme from around April 2016. The earlier version claimed that the close encounter with Saturn was to take place on May 1st.

So, I hear you ask,  how will Saturn really  appear to us in June 2016? Astronomy website notes:

June 3 – the opposition date – features the ringed planet at its closest to Earth and brightest in our sky. Saturn is the faintest of the bright planets. It’s still pretty bright, but, normally, you wouldn’t pick it out from among the stars. But around May or June of 2016, you can view Saturn fairly easily, because Saturn appears as bright as the brightest stars.

Thus, May and June 2016 are actually good months to view Saturn. However, such favourable viewing periods occur every year and 2016 is no different than other years. And, it hardly needs to be said that, even on its June 3rd opposition date, Saturn will not fill our skies as suggested in the report’s image.  Another astronomy site, notes in a report about Saturn’s 2016 opposition:

Even at its closest approach to the Earth, however, it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light without the aid of a telescope.

Last updated: May 19, 2016
First published: May 19, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

Give me five minutes and I’ll give you Saturn in 2016
Saturn at opposition