The British Mail on Sunday
announced that the sky was becoming less blue. It cited a five-year study conducted at the Koenraad University in Amsterdam which had used special digital cameras and color charts to measure subtle shifts in the sky's color. The study's researchers had found that the "'coefficient of blueness'... has drastically diminished in five years from 9.3 per cent in 1996 to just 6.9 per cent this year." They attributed this color change to the effects of air pollution and the depleting ozone layer. The article explained, "Particles of airborne pollution are thought to be creating a thick blanket of dirty grey." This blanket of pollution was preventing the 'scattering' of sunlight as it passed through the atmosphere, causing the sky to darken. Astronomer Patrick Moore was quoted as saying, "There's an awful lot of pollution, making the sky turn a strange russety colour."
The Mail on Sunday
invited its readers to help the researchers in Amsterdam by taking part in a "mass observation" scheduled to occur between 10am and noon on April 1. A "Skyometer" had been printed on the right side of the page that provided a graded chart of different shades of blue. By holding this chart up to the sky, readers could determine which shade best matched the color of the sky. They were asked to mail their results to the Mail on Sunday
, which would forward them to the Amsterdam researchers. The reference to astronomer Patrick Moore should have given readers a clue that the article was a hoax. Moore is famous for an April Fool's Day prank he perpetrated on the audience of BBC Radio back in 1976
in which he claimed that a rare alignment of the planets was temporarily going to lessen the earth's gravity.