There has been a lot of interest lately in the theory that the world is going to end in the year 2012. The hollywood version of events is scheduled to be in theaters in November 2009 and has a lot of people talking. So, is this something that we need to be taking seriously? Is Earth in danger of being annihilated? Is the government hiding the facts from us?
Though there are many variations of the doomsday theory, the threat most often quoted is a collision with a planet (or possibly a brown dwarf) known as Nibiru in 2012. The result would be the virtual destruction of Earth and mankind.
According to the theory, the planet Nibiru orbits our Sun once every 3600 years, making it difficult to observe. Some claim its existence is supported by ancient Sumerian writings, some more than 2500 years old. The Sumerians wrote a great deal about astronomy and had a relatively advanced understanding of the heavens. However, scholars have revealed that no such references to this mysterious object exist.
Then, in the early 1980s the theory was given new life when an infrared experiment cataloged over 350,000 objects in the nights sky, many of which were “unidentified”. A rash of conspiracy theories evolved to claim that one of these unidentified objects was Nibiru and that the government is tracking it. However, subsequent studies carried out by other telescopes around the world quickly identified these objects, and none of them were planets at all. But could the government be lying to us about their results? Not a chance, considering they would need to conspire with tens of thousands of astronomers, both professional and amateur, around the globe to keep the secret.
The ancient Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Many have taken this to mean that the Mayans believed that this date would bring the end of existence. However, this is not so. Like modern calendars, the Mayan calender is a way of keeping track of time. The Mayan calendar was never meant to be a predictor of the future any more than the calendar in my office is meant to.
The ending date of the Mayan calendar is not meant to represent the end of time, but rather the end of their calendar cycle. Just as our calender begins again on January 1, their calendar will begin a new cycle on December 22, 2012. Their calendar cycle is just much longer than our 365 day cycle.
Other 2012 Conspiracies
There are other events that are supposedly going to happen in 2012 that could spell disaster for planet Earth.
- Planetary Alignment: Some theories contend that a coming planetary alignment in 2012 will start a chain reaction that will cause strange weather and events on the Earth. The first problem with this is that there is not going to be any major alignments of planets, or other objects, in our solar system in the next several decades -- never mind in 2012. Secondly, even if there were a major alignment, there is no scientific reason to believe that this would have any impact on Earth.
- Alignment with the Galactic Center: There is also some worry about an alignment that will happen with the Sun and the center of our Galaxy. First, let me point out that this is very different than saying that our solar system will somehow be moved to the violent center of the Milky Way. That is impossible. We are nearly 30,000 light-years from the center of the Galaxy, making it impossible for us to somehow be “taken” there as some believe. However, it is possible for the Earth, Sun and Galactic Center to be temporarily aligned (where essentially the Sun would be blocking our “view” of the Galactic Center). Which brings me to the second point; this is nothing to fear. It actually happens every December with no consequence.
- Solar Magnetic Shift: Are the magnetic poles of the Sun going to flip in the next few years? Yes, actually, but there is nothing to fear. It is a natural process known as the solar cycle. Roughly every 11 years the magnetic poles of the Sun flip. This coincides with what is referred to as the solar maximum, the time when there is the greatest appearance of Sun spots, solar flares, prominences and other solar activity. The next solar maximum, was roughly predicted for 2012, but may not happen until 2013 or later. On a related note, some believe that the next solar maximum will bring the largest "solar storm" in history, and that it will knock out our telecommunication systems, cause blackouts and other problems on Earth. This theory is fueled by a report released by the National Research Council on Heliophysics, which was predicting what would happen in the case of another such storm (a massive solar storm was recorded in 1859). It is true that communications and power could be disrupted, but certainly not like the doomsday events portrayed in fiction. Furthermore, there is no reason to even believe that such a storm will happen during the next solar maximum or any other time in the future.
- Earth’s Polar Shift: Just as the Sun undergoes regular magnetic pole shifts, so does the Earth, but on a longer time scale. The Earth’s magnetic cycle is roughly 400,000 years, though it has actually been longer since the Earth’s last flip. In spite of this, there is no evidence that one is coming in the next several thousand years, much less by 2012. Even if a shift did occur, it certainly would not cause the Earth to start spinning in the opposite direction or flip the whole Earth upside down -- which are both outcomes believed by some conspiracy theorists.
- An Asteroid Will Collide With Earth: This is a fear popularized by several disaster movies in the last couple decades. The fact is that, yes, a large asteroid or comet could someday collide with Earth. In truth, meteorites fall to Earth everyday, they are just too small to do any damage. The good news is that an object large enough to do any real damage would be easy to see. And NASA does a great job of cataloging and monitoring the large objects in our solar system. The likelihood that one of these objects would sneak up on us is slim to none. We would likely know it was coming years before it actually arrived, so we would have time to hopefully prevent the collision.