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Apocalypse not now: 2012 doomsday predictions debunked by NASA

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Artist's conception of the rogue planet Nibiru, or Planet X.

gilderm / sxc.hu

Artist’s conception of the rogue planet Nibiru, or Planet X.

By Charles Q. Choi

updated 1/1/2012 1:21:20 PM ET2012-01-01T18:21:20

On Dec. 21, 2012, many doomsday believers fear the apocalypse — anything from a rogue planet smashing into us to our world spinning end over end. However, the world should expect nothing more next year than the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, NASA says.

Many people point to the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar on Dec. 21, 2012 as evidence of the coming apocalypse, but astronomers have been quick to stress that there is nothing to be concerned about.

According to the ancient Mayan calendar, next year’s winter solstice marks the end of a 144,000-day cycle. This cycle, which begins at the mythical Maya creation date, has already been repeated 12 times. The 13th will end in 2012, capping a full 5,200-year Mayan cycle of creation.

This date has long been shrouded in mystery, with many claiming that it will bring destruction to our planet. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]

Rogue planet Nibiru?
One fear is that a rogue planet that has been dubbed "Nibiru" or "Planet X" is supposedly aimed at Earth. Self-proclaimed Nibiru expert Nancy Lieder, who says she is in contact with the aliens from Zeta Reticuli, first said Nibiru would cause widespread disaster in May 2003, only to change it to Dec. 21, 2012.

There is, however, no evidence that Nibiru is real.

"Nibiru is ridiculous because it doesn’t exist — it never existed as anything other than a figment of the imagination by pseudo-scientists who don’t seem bothered by a complete lack of evidence," astronomer Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told SPACE.com.

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There is no basis for the claim that it might be lurking behind the sun, as it could not have hidden from observation until now, Yeomans said. If such a planet was headed toward Earth by Dec. 21, 2012, it would already be visible to the naked eye.

Cosmic alignments?
There are also concerns that planets or stars might line up in ways that will transform Earth. For instance, some theorists claim that from our point of view, the sun will cross in front of the plane of our galaxy on Dec. 21. However, the sun already does this twice a year, Yeomans said.

In fact, the sun will eventually cross the plane of our galaxy. However, the sun is about 67 light-years from the galactic plane, so it should take several million years to do so, Yeomans said. Even then, when our solar system finally does cross the plane, nothing special will occur, he added. [10 Failed Doomsday Predictions]

Some also claim that gravitational effects from planets lining up with each other will somehow affect Earth. However, there is no planetary alignment due on Dec. 21, 2012, "and if there were, it wouldn’t cause any problems," Yeomans said.

The only bodies that have any significant gravitational impact on Earth are the moon and the sun, effects we see as the tides. Tidal effects from other bodies in our solar system are negligible at best, and in any case, we have experienced them for millions of years without notice.

Solar storms?
Solar storms — deluges of energetic particles from the sun — do happen, usually waxing and waning in cycles that last roughly 11 years. When these charged particles collide with Earth, they can trigger auroras and damage satellites and power lines, although not really inflicting any lasting harm, Yeomans said.

There are accounts of a solar "super-storm" slamming into Earth in 1859. Although that caused relatively little damage back then, there are concerns that such a storm might cause far more harm now that our world is more dependent on electronics.

Yet, there is no evidence that such a super-storm will happen on Dec. 21 of next year, Yeomans said.

Flip-flopping Earth?
There is some alarm that 2012 could see the flipping of Earth’s poles — either the planet’s geographical poles, which mark the Earth’s axis of rotation, or its magnetic poles, which our compasses point toward.

But, there is no reason to fear such an occurrence, scientists said, because the moon stabilizes our planet’s spin. The planet’s magnetic poles do flip, but over periods of about 500,000 years, and not suddenly, "but over thousands of years," with no evidence of a flip on Dec. 21, 2012, Yeomans said.

Even if the planet’s magnetic poles do flip, no real problems would occur, other than the inconvenience of us having to change our compasses from north to south, he added.

Cosmic impacts?
The Earth is always vulnerable to impacts by comets and asteroids, but giant impacts are rare, with the last major collision taking place 65 million years ago, ending the Age of Dinosaurs.

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Still, astronomers do monitor the sky for near-Earth objects.

"There are no known near-Earth objects in 2012 that present a credible risk to Earth," Yeomans said. "None, zero, zip, nada."

But despite evidence to the contrary, doomsdays theorists have garnered attention, and similar prophecies will continue to proliferate unless scientists become more involved in bringing truth to these outlandish claims, Yeomans said.

Mounting hysteria regarding these unfounded doomsday predictions "will improve only if scientists get more engaged in debunking pseudoscience," he said.

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

© 2012 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

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Discuss: Apocalypse not now: 2012 doomsday predictions debunked by NASA

1107 total comments

Computer Geek

Since the world will be ending, please send all your earthly possessions (land, cash, jewelry, stock certificates) to … me! Just answer back with your email address and I’ll be glad to take those gifts off your hands!

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Computer Geek, with 13

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Just Me-4457032

Maybe the media should listen to NASA as the media does a great job to hype it up. Many other people who tend to avoid our media knows it’s only the end of a cycle and the beginning of another.

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Just Me-4457032, with 13

Reply

bill-318747

Mark 13:32

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but
only the Father."

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bill-318747, with 12

Reply

Mike the Merciless

Dont listen to NASA. The worlds gonna end on 12/21/12. Run your credit card bills up. Dont pay your mortgages. Hit on your sister in law. Tell your mother in law how you really feel about her. Take a rental car and play demolition derby. Get extra cheese on your whopper. Have unprotected sex with an intervenus drug user from Haiti. Its all gonna be fine. No worries.

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Mike the Merciless, with 11

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Little Sure Shot

My theory is that way back when, a bunch of bored drunken Mayan guys came up with the greatest punk ever by creating a calender to totally screw with future people’s minds.

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Little Sure Shot, with 10

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Richard-2538136

I’m less worried about any of the end of the world scenarios postulated for 12/21/12, than I am about all the media hype surrounding it over the next year, and human ignorance, turning it into a self fulfilling prophecy.

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Richard-2538136, with 7

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Ronzwyf

There is an old tried, but true saying, which summarizes this 12/21/2012 theory.. "The best defense is a strong offense" and vice verse… Whether it’s Planet X hitting the earth, polar shift change, angels coming to "Rapture the Chosen, the "Rise of the Anti-Christ"; or just idiot nations aiming nukes at each other; ………. plan for the worst, protect what you have, sit back and watch the show.

Common sense should tell people.. Look at the collapsing world monetary systems, ever growing shortage of food supply, idiot nations such as North Korea and Iran, that would just as soon blow the world up than admit they are crazy; governments overrun, religious wars, etc, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on. Instead of spending all your money on electronic gadgets, parties and vacations that you really don’t need; put together a nice, self sustaining "off the grid" "go to" point (don’t forget food seeds that regenerate, stockpile some gold or silver as currencies fail, and some form of protection).

You aren’t hurting anyone, and you just might save your own life; the life of your close family and friends by planning ahead…

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Ronzwyf, with 6

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CoolCo-1968

Aw, can’t we push the date back again for the end of the world? That’s my mom’s birthday!

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CoolCo-1968, with 6

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JabbaTheElf

It does not matter when the world or life as we know it ends. What matters is how we lived it until then.

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JabbaTheElf, with 4

Reply

ahnerrj

Whether 2012 will spell the end or not NASA was tasked by the Government to disclaim the whole apocalyptic idea. Another example of fabricated propaganda. We as Americans need to be smarter and know when we are being manipulated. Recognize which news organizations are not objective.

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ahnerrj, with 4

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