Fake News Published in The Sun Newspaper in 1835: The Great Moon Hoax

Fake News Published in The Sun Newspaper in 1835: The Great Moon Hoax
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Fake News Published in The Sun Newspaper in 1835: The Great Moon Hoax

In 1835, The Sun newspaper in New York City published a series of articles that would come to be known as one of the greatest hoaxes in history — The Great Moon Hoax. These articles claimed that famed astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life on the moon, including unicorns, 4-foot-tall beavers, and winged humanoids. The story captured the imagination of readers at the time and sparked a debate about the credibility of news sources.

The Sun Newspaper: A Brief History

Founded in 1833, The Sun was a popular penny newspaper that focused on sensational stories and human-interest pieces. It quickly gained a reputation for publishing exaggerated or fabricated stories to attract readers. The Great Moon Hoax was just one example of the newspaper’s penchant for sensationalism.

The Great Moon Hoax Unfolds

The series of articles detailing Sir John Herschel’s supposed discoveries on the moon began on August 25, 1835, and continued for six days. The articles were attributed to Dr. Andrew Grant, a fictitious colleague of Herschel’s, and claimed to be based on observations made through Herschel’s powerful telescope.

The stories described a lush lunar landscape teeming with exotic flora and fauna, complete with detailed sketches to lend credibility to the claims. The public was captivated by the idea of life on the moon, and The Sun’s circulation soared as a result.

Debunking the Hoax

It didn’t take long for scientists and astronomers to debunk The Sun’s articles as pure fiction. Sir John Herschel himself issued a statement denying any such discoveries and criticized the newspaper for spreading false information. The sketches were revealed to be plagiarized from other sources, further undermining the hoax.

Despite being exposed as a hoax, The Sun’s circulation continued to grow, and the paper never issued a retraction or correction for its false claims. The Great Moon Hoax served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of sensationalism and the importance of verifying sources before believing in extraordinary claims.

Lessons Learned

  • Trust but verify: The Great Moon Hoax highlights the importance of fact-checking and verifying sources before accepting sensational claims as truth.
  • Skepticism is healthy: It’s essential to approach news and information with a critical eye and a healthy dose of skepticism to avoid falling for hoaxes and misinformation.
  • Media responsibility: The Sun’s failure to retract or correct its false claims underscores the importance of media outlets taking responsibility for the accuracy of their reporting.


The Great Moon Hoax of 1835 serves as a cautionary tale about the power of fake news and the responsibility of media outlets to uphold journalistic integrity. The sensational story published in The Sun newspaper may have captured the imagination of readers at the time, but it ultimately led to a loss of credibility for the publication. As we navigate an increasingly digital and information-saturated world, it is more important than ever to critically evaluate the sources of our information and separate fact from fiction.

The Sun Newspaper Publishes Fake News in 1835: The Great Moon Hoax
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