Bad Astronomy

Conspiracy Revealed: The Simpsons Has Been Lying to You

I’ve been a fan of The Simpsons for a long time. Obviously. So when I heard that SpaceX’s head guy Elon Musk was guest-starring on the show, I hoped it would be a good episode. And it was! As I watched I marveled at how funny the show was even after all these decades and laughed quite a bit as the story unfolded.

… Until a scene came up that chilled me to the bone. I was so shocked that I had to rewind and watch it again, then freeze frame it to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

This is the moment that changed everything for me. The frozen moment of time when I realized that for 26 years, The Simpsons has been lying to us.

Elon Musk on The Simpsons
I suspect Elon knew this whole time. He builds rockets for a living.

Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

This shows Musk standing at the dining room window of the Simpson’s house, looking out and pontificating at the night sky as the family behind him eats dinner.

But look at the Moon. LOOK AT THE MOON!

It’s backwards. The scene is clearly at dinner, early evening, so that’s the setting crescent new Moon. But in the Northern Hemisphere, the tips of a waxing crescent Moon point to the left, away from the Sun (that link describes how the phases of the Moon relate to the time of day and the Moon’s position in the sky). Here’s a photo I took myself in November 2013:

Moon and Venus
The Moon and Venus, as not seen from Springfield.

Photo by Phil Plait, northern hemispherean

See? I took that picture shortly after sunset, around dinnertime. It was new Moon, and the crescent’s tips point to the left. But in that scene with Musk, they point to the right! How can that be?

There’s only one way. Springfield is not in the United States at all. It’s not even in our half of the world. Springfield is in the Southern Hemisphere!

I don’t even know how to react to this information. It’s as if … my whole world has been turned upside down.

*Correction, Feb. 23, 2015, at 16:30 UTC: I originally misstated that The Simpsons has been on TV for 22 years. It’s in its 26th year, which is actually pretty astonishing.