NASA Working to Dispel 2012 Apocalypse Myth
It's a great story line: Nibiru, a
supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is streaking toward an apocalyptic
collision with Earth, a fiery doomsday linked to the end of one of the cycles
in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012. Scientists, for
their own dark reasons, refuse to confirm the end of Earth that is coming.
It's such a great story line that Sony Pictures is releasing a $200 million disaster movie called "2012" based on the premise to be released Nov. 13. On the Internet, pseudo-scientists and paranormal activity enthusiasts are already jumping on the disaster bandwagon with all sorts of "facts" supporting Nibiru's collision course to reduce Earth to a shattered blue marble.
The story has such great legs that even NASA was moved Nov. 9 to issue a denial that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012. Of course, according to the conspiracy theories, NASA is one of the agencies covering the whole thing up. But in an affirmative tip of the hat to science, let's hear what NASA has to say.
"There apparently is a great deal of interest in celestial bodies, and their locations and trajectories at the end of the calendar year 2012," Don Yeomans, a NASA senior research scientist, said in a statement. "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."
To counter the hype and hysteria, NASA has even issued a question-and-answer about 2012, which NASA predicts will come and go without a cataclysmic event. Some highlights:
Q: Are there any threats to Earth in 2012?
A: Nothing bad will happen to Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?
A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened, the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012-hence the predicted doomsday date of Dec. 21, 2012.
Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?
A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after Dec. 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on Dec. 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then-just as your calendar begins again on Jan. 1-another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.
Q: Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?
A: The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office Website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.
Q: Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?
A: Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.