Facebook users were duped this week into watching fake "live footage" of the celestial treat that was the "super blue blood moon", a prank that racked up millions of views.

On Wednesday (31 January), the world braced in anticipation to view the rare phenomenon – the first in the western hemisphere in 150 years, after all. What many got on Facebook, however, was a nine-year-old still image of a moon, with wind sounds added in for good measure.

According to CCN, which first spotted the trickery, the purported Facebook Live stream was the top result that appeared under the search "supermoon".

Going undetected by the company, it was ultimately viewed more than 16 million times in four hours. The stolen image showing the moon, reportedly taken in Greece by a photographer called Chris Kotsiopoulos, was uploaded with current timestamps to appear legitimate.

It was posted by a page titled "EBuzz", and removed late Wednesday by Facebook.

The social network told CNN that the upload had violated the site's policies, without elaborating on the exact rules it had broken.

The news outlet found some viewers fell for the footage and were seen commenting on how beautiful it was. Others were not convinced. "I'm curious how this is a 'live' feed when the same picture has been up for 3 hours with the moon in the same spot," one user wrote.

The high number of views on the upload was likely due to the fact Facebook counts a "view" as anything watched longer than three seconds. As a result, that means that unwitting users who were simply scrolling through their News Feeds likely contributed to the tally.

Fake video is not confined to Facebook, as the Google-owned YouTube service has also been fighting of late to stop users pretending to have real-time streams. Fraudulent videos showing footage of concerts and Nasa spacewalks appear to be highly infectious on the site.

It remains unclear what the motivation for the uploaders would be, other than click counts.

A commerical jet flies in front of the moon on its approach to Heathrow airport in west London. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images