‘Don’t worry about it.’ NASA debunks science behind 2012 Mayan doomsday
Published Thursday, December 20, 2012 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 20, 2012 5:24PM EST
With the so-called Mayan doomsday a mere day away, some are busy planning end-of-the-world parties while the spiritually cautious are going so far as to prepare their souls for the planet's imminent demise. Just in case.
But NASA says the thousands-of-years-old Mayan reference -- which many hold as gospel fact -- is nothing more than coincidence, superstition and junk science.
The claim related to an apparent cosmic alignment set to occur on Dec. 21.
The space agency even went so far as to release a statement explaining why the predictions are light-years off base.
"This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy -- or perhaps the galaxy's thick dust clouds -- on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm," said Francis Reddy, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in an article posted on the agency's website.
Indeed, Reddy added, our solar system won’t even be at its closest alignment of the year during the 2012 solstice on the fabled date.
But what does that really mean?
There are three main components that comprise the phenomenon set to take place on Dec. 21, which also happens to fall on the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice.
The Dark Rift -- a dark patch of cloud in the Milky Way -- is one. The second is Sagittarius, the galactic centre of our galaxy, which lies about 28,000 light years from the Earth and hosts a black hole roughly four millions times larger than the sun. And the last component is our sun and its location on Dec. 21.
On that day, the sun will pass in front of the Dark Rift -- a coincidence that believers see as a harbinger of doom.
"There are different claims about why this bodes us ill, but they boil down to the coincidence of the solstice with the sun entering the Dark Rift somehow portending disaster. Or the mistaken notion that the sun and Earth becoming aligned with the black hole in the galactic center allows some kind of massive gravitational pull on Earth," writes Reddy.
Others have predicted the alignment will create a sort of cosmic bowling alley -- with a rogue planet named Nibiru as the bowling ball and Earth as the pin waiting to get knocked into space.
There were even rumours earlier this year that the comet Elenin, which eventually disintegrated when it passed the sun, was actually Nibiru, sneaking up to take a run at Earth.
According to Reddy, those theories are simply illogical and make "no astronomical sense at all."
The first problem is that the doomsday theory is based on the premise that the solstice correlates to the movement of the stars or any other heavenly body. That's false, says Reddy, who suggests the solstice is nothing more than the day the Earth's North Pole is closest to the sun.
In addition, at 93 million miles from the sun and 165 quadrillion miles from the galaxy's black hole in Sagittarius, Earth is too far away to be affected by its gravitational pull.
We'd be much more likely to be pulled into the sun or the moon's gravity, which though smaller, are much closer and exert by far the strongest gravitational forces upon Earth.
"Throughout the course of the year, our distance from the Milky Way's black hole changes by about one part in 900 million -- not nearly enough to cause a real change in gravity's pull. Moreover, we're actually nearest to the galactic center in the summer, not at the winter solstice," he wrote.
Finally, Reddy explains, the sun appears to enter the Dark Rift region every year at around the same time, and there's nothing special about this year's crossing.
"Enjoy the solstice, by all means, and don't let the Dark Rift, alignments, solar flares, magnetic field reversals, potential impacts or alleged Maya end-of-the-world predictions get in the way."
David Morrison, another NASA scientist, released a YouTube video earlier this year with a similar message to Reddy.
“People seem to want there to be a cataclysm. Well, there isn’t going to be one,” Morrison said. “There is no evidence whatsoever from science …of any changes in the Earth, of any external objects, like comet Elenin, that pose a danger.
“Don’t worry about it, have a good 2013.”