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NASA sweeps away myths about Monday's viral broomstick challenge

Brush away that Twitter claim. If you can balance your broom today, you can do it any day.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
2 min read

NASA has spoken, and the space agency has a sweeping statement to make about the so-called broomstick challenge, this week's social media fascination. On Monday and Tuesday, social media users were sharing photos and videos of regular household brooms standing straight up with seemingly no support. The buzzy trend seems to have started with a viral tweet that claimed "NASA said today was the only day a broom can stand up on its own because of the gravitational pull ... I didn't believe it at first but OMG!."

Doesn't look like NASA ever said any such thing, and now the agency is cleaning up the issue. In a nine-second video tweeted out by NASA's official account on Tuesday, astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble balance a broom on its bristles with no fuss. 

"Did you do the broomstick challenge yesterday?" Noble asks. "Well, it turns out, you can do it again today."

And Drew responds, "It's just physics."

Getting a broom to stand alone has nothing to do with the date on the calendar, in case you were sucked in by the original tweet. It's just a matter of fanning out the bristles like a tripod, and it can be done any day of the year if you're careful and willing to fuss around with your broom. 

"Don't get too swept up in the broomstick challenge," the Twitter account for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex warned. "It's actually its low center of gravity that allows a broom to balance on its bristles today and any day."

Still, Twitter users got a kick out of NASA's tweet. "We're going to use 'It's just physics' as a mic drop from now on," the National Air and Space Museum tweeted.

Still, science aside, Monday's broomstick challenge did produce some pretty impressive videos and photos. One Twitter user successfully balanced three brooms, a knife, and a crutch, all at once.

Even the NBC comedy Superstore, set in Cloud 9, a megastore that most certainly sells brooms, took it on. "Cloud 9 loves a challenge," the show's account tweeted.

And to Harry Potter fans, the broomstick challenge means something else entirely.

Some believe the broom-balancing myth is related to an urban legend stating that eggs can only balance on end twice a year, on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. But Monday wasn't either of those, which take place in March and September, so that doesn't exactly clean up the issue either.