GAM 2017 Blog

By Avivah Yamani

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Hoax… Is it a new trend…or failure of education system? Well I don’t have an exact answer to that. But I always think of it as a lack of basic science in our society in Indonesia. Political situation in Indonesia also shares the evidence that people were easily fall into hoax news. It is also the case in astronomy.

In 2003, we encounter Mars hoax for the first time. This issue circulated by email and claimed that Mars would look as big as the full Moon to the naked eye on August 27, 2003. People easily fall into this issue. Curiosity arose and people visited the observatory, planetarium, and public places where astronomy community conducts public viewing. Several telescope were damage in Jakarta Planetarium while in other places, it was the longest queue we ever seen. The hoax has since resurfaced every year from 2005 through 2016. And I hope we won’t see it in the near future…but I guess…we will need to write the same story again and again to counter this issue.

In 2006, we had another issue here. A book has been published as an evidence of geocentric idea. The Sun goes round the Earth and our beloved Earth stands still. It was hot debate in many mailing list and online forum. This misconception is still recurring, and in our point of view, this is all because of the lack of basic science.

This 2 events, along with the lack of astronomy media and transit Venus events in 2004, became the reason to start a new astronomy blog. Our purpose was to share astronomy information as well as educating public in astronomy. In short, we want to build astronomy awareness among Indonesian public. In our new blog which we name langitselatan or Southern Sky, we also counter astronomy hoax.

Once we started the blog, we encounter people who want to know more about the Moon Landing hoax. So it became another popular story in our site.

Started in 2009, the upcoming release of 2012 movies drag people to believe that the world was come to an end. The 2012 doomsdays issue started. And I’m sure this one became hot issue everywhere in this blue planet. It was in Indonesia. The peak was in 2012 when the Mayan Calendar end its long calendar. Our statistics shows that public interest on astronomy get its peak in 2012 and most of our reader looking for 2012 doomsday issue including nibiru, planet alignment, and solar cycle. Another false story in 2012 was Betelguese will explode as supernova and its explosion will affect the Earth.

Ok... lets move to another hoax. We also encounter the most frequent question from our reader and this issue gets its spot in several mainstream media here. “The Universe shaped like a trumpet”. And public related this issue to their faith.

In 2014 and 2015, another story of the end of the world reappeared. This time, the tetrad lunar eclipse became the suspect for blood moon prophecy. Not just the lunar eclipse. The Total Solar Eclipse in 2015 was also famous for this end of the world prophecy.

In 2016… We were once again encounter the same issue regarding total solar eclipse. We had many false beliefs toward the eclipse. And the most famous issue in 2016 aside than Total Solar Eclipse was flat earth issue, many people fall into this issue. Many of them believe that they have been deceived by global organization about this and that all scientific results were fake. And again as usual, public relate this issue with faith. There were hot debates everywhere, especially in social media. Several organization and astronomy community organize a discussion about this issue and mainstream media outlet pick this issue as one of their hot news.

In 2017… we still have this flat earth society. And it looks like this issue won’t end anytime soon. But we also have other false issue. Misinformation about perigee and equinox leads people to believe that the earth temperature especially Indonesia will increases very high and we will have heat wave.

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Sad but true… hoax or fake news usually gain more interest from public. Public usually interested on how to observe the event or what’s the relation with their life. Hoax generates instant curiosity among public. People talk about the astronomy issues and looking for the answers.

False issue like this can be destructive but it can also be a good opportunity to introduce astronomy to the public. This is why we need to communicate science in every way through every channel.

2017 is the 10th anniversary for our online media. Aside than hoax, public do looking for astronomy news, information and events such meteor shower, eclipse and etc. But still, hoax received more attention from public. And sometime it is the easiest way to talk about astronomy to the lay people.



avivah 3Avivah Yamani is an astronomy communicator from Indonesia. She is a co-founder of langitselatan, an astronomy online media and a Project Director of 365 Days of Astronomy.