spaceSpace and Physics

The 10 Biggest Scientific Hoaxes Of 2015


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

378 The 10 Biggest Scientific Hoaxes Of 2015

With each new year comes a new wave of conspiracy theories, and 2015 was definitely no exception.

In the past, we’ve had to deal with shapes on Mars that slightly resemble a recognizable object, claims that UFOs are visiting Earth, and *shudder* Moon landing deniers.


This year, those conspiracy theorists really took it up a notch. We were treated to not only more aliens visiting Earth, but extinct animals coming back to life and even a new round of end-of-the-world conspiracies.

Do we expect you to get angry? No, we expect you to sigh. Here’s our pick of the 10 biggest hoaxes to grace our screens in 2015.

10: When NASA cut the live stream from the ISS because aliens

Image via NASA/YouTube

There are a lot of conspiracy theories about NASA. Perhaps one of the most regularly spouted is that they are hiding knowledge of aliens.


And this came to the fore again in January, when a live stream from the ISS was cut while a UFO was apparently in view. Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, there is a rational explanation.

The ISS feed cuts out regularly as the station orbits Earth, and while the speck of grey looked interesting, it was probably just an artifact in the image or something really, really small near the camera. Sorry about that.

9: Atlas V rocket launch, or UFO? (hint: it's not a UFO)




On September 2, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. As it made its way to space, it formed some beautiful shapes in the sky owing to the plume it created.

Rather than appreciating this spectacle for what it was, some people immediately suspected that this might actually be an alien UFO flying through the sky.

Spoiler: It wasn’t.

8: Two moons in the night sky? Nope

Not pictured: Science. Image via social media


Ah, this one comes up every year in that email chain forwarded to you from a distant relative or that image shared on Facebook.

In August this year, some people claimed that Mars would be so close to Earth that it would appear like a second Moon in the sky. Then they shared the infamous image. Argh.

It’s true, Earth and Mars do get closer to and further from each other – 55 to 400 million kilometers (34 to 250 million miles). But the difference in the size of Mars in the night sky is not that dramatic to the naked eye.

After all, it’s still frickin’ 55 million kilometers away, and is only twice the size of the Moon, which is 385,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) away. Why would they appear the same size?! 

7: That U.S. Navy missile that was totally a UFO



This one was fairly similar to the Atlas V launch we mentioned earlier. In November, a mysterious plume of light was seen off the coast of Southern California.

Although looking alien in origin, it actually turned out to be a practice launch of an unarmed Trident II (D5) missile by the U.S. Navy. The test was pre-planned, but perhaps an announcement beforehand would’ve helped ease the minds of those more impressionable.

6: The killer asteroid that didn't really kill us all

Aaahhhhhhhhh-oh wait, we're fine. Image via solarseven/Shutterstock

In September, an enormous asteroid struck Earth, destroying all life as we know it, and spelling the end for humanity.

Oh wait. That never happened? Hmm. Well, we guess the conspiracy theorists that predicted the world was going to end due to a killer asteroid were wrong.

The speculation got to be so much that NASA issued a rare statement assuring people that no such asteroid was on its way. “In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years,” they said.

5: The weird alien thing that was not an alien (but was still super gross)

Ew. Image via Facebook

Remember that thing above? It was posted on Facebook in November, and instantly had people screaming “alien!” in fear, while also feeling pretty sick at the sight of it.

It turned out, though, that this thing was probably the remains of a deer fetus that had been partially eaten by other animals. At the bottom of the image, you can see two legs, while at the top are the remains of the head. 

Yeah, it’s pretty grim. Still, at least it’s not a dead alien. Right?

4: That blood moon Rapture was pretty bad, eh

Image via Yanxin Wang/Flickr

Okay, so an asteroid didn’t kill us all in September. But what about the fourth of four “blood moons,” known as a lunar tetrad?

Some claimed this would signal the end of the world through the second coming of Christ and the Rapture. For those of us who don’t have time to quickly repent, we’d be stuck on Earth to endure hellish conditions, etc.

Well, that didn’t exactly happen. But the lunar tetrad is still interesting. A “blood moon,” better known as a lunar eclipse, is when the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow and appears red, as sunlight refracts through the atmosphere. And it’s pretty rare for them to appear so close to each other, with only a handful of tetrads occurring over the last couple of thousand years.


Not quite the end of the world, though.

3: The Roswell footage that turned out to be a clip from a movie

The truth is out there. Probably. Julien Tromeur​/Shutterstock

This one was almost our favorite. In February, UFO enthusiasts eagerly announced they had found secret footage from Roswell that showed an alien autopsy taking place.

But there was just one problem. The footage was actually taken from a film starring U.K. entertainers Ant and Dec called "Alien Autopsy." It was so ridiculous that even Philip Mantle, a “UFO expert” involved with the original hoax Roswell footage, labeled it “utter b*******.”

2: Check out that alien civilization on Ceres

Looks nice. When can we visit? NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at the dwarf planet Ceres in March this year, it spotted something fascinating on the surface: a couple of extremely bright spots. At the time, we couldn’t explain what they were. Now, we’re pretty sure they are salt flats, with a bit of water ice in there too.

Or, maybe not. One group of very learned, smart, and respected individuals suggested these might be city lights from an alien civilization living on Ceres. Others thought they might be “headlights” on what is not a dwarf planet, but a vast alien spaceship.

Your move, NASA.

1: Remember when that extinct Pterosaur flew over Idaho?

Gasp. Rumble Viral/YouTube

“Oh my God! There’s an extinct flying reptile in the skies over Idaho” said no one, we hope, when they saw this easy-to-spot CGI hoax video of a pterosaur flapping its wings over the northwestern U.S. state.

Pterosaurs lived around the time of the dinosaurs, and have been extinct since that pesky asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago. The chances of one hiding out all that time and returning for a brief jaunt in our skies? Uh, pretty slim. A+ for effort, though, which is why we had to pick this as our favorite.

But hey, that rounds up our list of some of the most ridiculous stories of the year. We’re looking forward to more nonsense in 2016, and remember, if it sounds too good/weird to be true, it probably is.


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