Standing a broom up on its end may not even be a result of the vernal equinox, according to a Rockmart science teacher.
Kyle Stephens, a physics and chemistry teacher at Rockmart High School, said the sweeping Facebook phenomenon of posting pictures of brooms standing by themselves is probably more hype than science.
“The theory is that it’s the equinox,” Stephens said. “To be honest with you, brooms can stand up on end any time of year.”
Cedartown High School physics teacher Brian Griffin agreed.
“It’s an urban legend,” he said. “If you ever notice how people talk a lot about eggs and how you can balance them at the equinox, that’s not true either.”
An equinox is a time when angle of the earth creates a gravitational field that is in perfect symmetry, he said. That happens twice a year with the spring equinox called the vernal equinox and the fall called the autumnal equinox.
“When the earth is at a perpendicular angle at the equinox, they say the symmetry makes the gravitational fields line up between the sun and the earth,” Stephens said.
Practically, an equinox creates equal portions of day and night. This year’s spring equinox is March 20.
Most students have, in both years past and present, experimented with placing eggs on their ends on the equinox.
Griffin said no one should bristle in amazement about that either.
“There’s nothing unnatural about it,” he said. You can do that any day of the year.”
Stephens said the same, but added that an equinox period may make such feats a bit easier to accomplish.
Internet theories on the standing brooms have populated cyberspace this week with some speculating plant alignment, solar flares, even an unraveling of the spiritual realm.
For scientists, a lot of the theory conjuring is stirred by media attention to other scientific events.
“Everyone has been talking about the alignment of the planets and the solar flares,” Griffin said. “This is just one of those funny things that comes up every few years.”
Joe Ross, a professor of astronomy and physics at Texas A&M University, said the broom trick is simply a balancing act.
"One thing I can say with certainty, the pull of the moon has nothing to do with this phenomenon," said Ross.
If the moon's pull was enough to cancel the force of gravity and make brooms spontaneously stand up, Ross said, they would also be able to float.
There is a small reduction in gravitational force when the moon is directly overhead, he said, but it isn't enough to change the behavior of a broom. Nor is the free-standing broom related to the alignment of the sun, such as the equinox.
The broom can stand by itself, he said, because the center of gravity is directly above the edge on which it balances. And the bristles are soft enough to spread out a bit at the contact point with the floor and provide a stable base to support the handle and allow the broom to balance.