On Wednesday, NASA will make an announcement about a “discovery beyond our solar system.”
Pretty cool and mysterious sounding, right?
According to the space agency, the announcement is specifically related to “planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets.”
Cool, cool. Exoplanets are a big deal in space science these days so it makes sense that NASA would plug the finding in a press event of some kind.
— NASA (@NASA) February 21, 2017
You know what doesn’t make sense? Rampant speculation that somehow this press conference, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on a Wednesday — the same time the science journal Nature lifts its embargo every week — is an announcement that NASA has found alien life in the universe.
That hasn’t stopped numerous news organizations and people on social media from speculating that the space agency will, in fact, publicly announce that aliens are real and we’ve found them. This is my favorite headline so far: “Has Nasa found ALIENS? Space agency to announce ‘discovery beyond our solar system”
Will be well gutted if nasa's announcement tomorrow isn't about aliens 🙄
— Hayley McQueen (@HayleyMcQueenx) February 21, 2017
This NASA announcement better be aliens.
— jada✨ (@JadaBrevett) February 21, 2017
Has Nasa found ALIENS? Space agency to announce ‘discovery beyond our solar system’ https://t.co/Ycop9l66pd
— Baronian Consulting (@BaronianConsult) February 21, 2017
If you want to watch the NASA announcement — which is seriously not about aliens but is about something cool — the agency will stream it live in the window below starting at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday.
This isn’t the first time NASA has gotten the internet’s hopes up by plugging a mysterious sounding announcement before a science journal’s embargo lifts, either.
This kind of thing seems to happen every time the agency hints at announcing any science result at all.
NASA: We'll discuss our FY 2018 budget proposal at a press confe-
Public: IS IT ALIENS?
NASA: No, this is our budg-
Public: SO IT'S ALIENS?
— Robert McNees (@mcnees) February 21, 2017
There’s nothing inherently wrong with NASA’s habit of mysteriously announcing that an announcement will be made.
It’s actually a great strategy if you want people to watch your mid-day press conferences. But that said, it’s also clear that this whole thing just gives news outlets free rein to speculate in an attempt to drive plenty of traffic.
But here’s a good rule of thumb for all you consumers of news out there: It’s not aliens.
Besides, we all know that if it ever is aliens, that news will be dumped overboard on a Friday evening before a long weekend.’