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2012 - A Scientific Realty Check

On December 16, 1992, 8 days after its encounter with Earth, the Galileo spacecraft looked back from a distance of about 6.2 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) to capture this remarkable view of the Moon in orbit about Earth. The composite photograph was constructed from images taken through visible (violet, red) and near-infrared (1.0-micron) filters. The Moon is in the foreground; its orbital path is from left to right. Brightly colored Earth contrasts strongly with the Moon, which reacts only about one-third as much sunlight as our world.

To improve the visibility of both bodies, contrast and color have been computer enhanced. At the bottom of Earth's disk, Antarctica is visible through clouds. The Moon's far side can also be seen. The shadowy indentation in the Moon's dawn terminator--the boundary between its dark and lit sides--is the South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest and oldest lunar impact features. This feature was studied extensively by Galileo during the first Earth flyby in December 1990. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

by Donald Yeomans
Washington DC (SPX) Nov 11, 2009
There apparently is a great deal of interest in celestial bodies, and their locations and trajectories at the end of the calendar year 2012. Now, I for one love a good book or movie as much as the next guy. But the stuff flying around through cyberspace, TV and the movies is not based on science.

There is even a fake NASA news release out there... So here is the scientific reality on the celestial happenings in the year 2012.

Nibiru, a purported large object headed toward Earth, simply put - does not exist. There is no credible evidence - telescopic or otherwise - for this object's existence. There is also no evidence of any kind for its gravitational affects upon bodies in our solar system.

I do however like the name Nibiru. If I ever get a pet goldflish (and I just may do that sometime in early 2013), Nibiru will be at the top of my list.

The Mayan calendar does not end in December 2012. Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012.

This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period, but then - just as your calendar begins again on January 1 - another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.

There are no credible predictions for worrisome astronomical events in 2012. The activity of the sun is cyclical with a period of roughly 11 years and the time of the next solar maximum is predicted to occur in the period 2010 - 2012.

However, the Earth routinely experiences these periods of increased solar activity - for eons - without worrisome effects.

The Earth's magnetic field, which deflects charged particles from the sun, does reverse polarity on time scales of about 400,000 years but there is no evidence that a reversal, which takes thousands of years to occur, will begin in 2012.

Even if this several thousand year-long magnetic field reversal were to begin, that would not affect the Earth's rotation nor would it affect the direction of the Earth's rotation axis... only Superman can do that.

The only important gravitational tugs experienced by the Earth are due to the moon and sun. There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and Sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.

The predictions of doomsday or dramatic changes on December 21, 2012 are all false. Incorrect doomsday predictions have taken place several times in each of the past several centuries. Readers should bear in mind what Carl Sagan noted several years ago; "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, the burden of proof is on the people making these claims. Where is the science? Where is the evidence?

There is none, and all the passionate, persistent and profitable assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.

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