reevesAstronomy is a blog that focuses on Science and Tech, and in particular, Astronomy.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
What's Up? No 2012 Doomsday
Welcome back to What's Up?
Last month, on October 7, the much hyped LCROSS mission slammed into the Moon. Some reported that it would split the Moon in half and that NASA was going to blow up the Moon! In reality the spacecraft that crashed into the Moon at breakneck speeds was only the size of a SUV. NASA scientists are currently examining all of the data collected from the impact and are looking for signs of water.
NASA's attempt to blow up the Moon isn't the only conspiracy idea that has been circulating recently. The idea that the world will end in 2012 has been spreading around the internet for a years and is now being promoted in the movie, 2012, which is due to come out on November 13.
One of the main reasons that the 2012 doomsday "theory" was made up is because of the ancient Mayan's longest running calendar. This calendar is set to end on December 21, 2012. The Mayans were an ancient civilization that lived for a few thousand years in what is now Mexico. They were highly advanced for their time and had many great mathematicians and astronomers. They devised many different calendars, the longest of which is a 5,126 year cycle.
Many are now fearing the end of the world when the calendar ends, but that's not the way a calendar works. The Mayans don't even mention the concept! Just because our calendar ends on December 31, doesn't mean that world is going to end! Once the Mayan calendar ends it starts over again, just like our calendar does.
Another explanation for the world ending on December 21, 2012 is that the Milky Way's centre, the Sun, and the Earth will line up in a row. The extra gravitational forces from this line up are supposed to knock Earth off of its axis and it will be the end of the world as we know it.
What they don't mention about this special line up is that it happens every single year! If you could get rid of the bright blue daytime sky for a minute, you would be able to see that the Sun is right in front of the Milky Way's centre on December 21, 2012, as it is every year. The extra gravitational force on Earth from this alignment is much less than the gravitational force of a person on the other side of the Earth.
If it's not the Earth, Sun, and galactic centre lining up that will cause the doomsday, maybe it will be from some other galactic phenomenon. As the solar system orbits the centre of the Milky Way it bobs above and below the disk of the galaxy. It has been proposed that when we pass through the disk of the galaxy the gravitational disturbances cause tons of comets to get knocked out of their orbits and fly in towards the inner solar system. These comets will then impact the Earth, ending life as we know it.
Yet again, a real situation is blown out of proportion. The solar system does bob up and down through the Milky Way's disk, but takes about 50 million years to do so. The solar system will actually take a few millions years just to pass through the Milky Way's disk!
Returning to doomsday caused by our solar system, is the idea that there is a giant object, called Planet X or Niburu. Planet X is given to any planet that we think is there but hasn't been discovered yet. In fact, Pluto was referred to as Planet X for a short period of time. Conspiracy theorists suggest that NASA is covering up information of a giant brown dwarf that is flying in towards the inner solar system and may possibly be the dwarf planet Eris.
A brown dwarf is a planet type object many times bigger than Jupiter. If there was a dwarf planet flying towards Earth, at least one of the hundreds of thousands of people in the world with a telescope or binoculars would have noticed it. Dwarf planet Eris is actually the size of Pluto and doesn't come any closer than 4 billion miles to the Earth.
Thousands of videos on video sharing websites, such as YouTube, show a bright object next to the Sun. This bright object is an internal reflection off of the lenses inside a camera, not a giant undiscovered planet near the Sun!
Back in reality, let's see what's up.
The Moon will be full on November 2 and will dwindle down to a new moon by November 16.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift off for mission STS-129 on November 16. It will install new sensors and bring other equipment to the International Space Station.
Jupiter will be in the South after sunset with Mars rising in the East a few hours later.
Just before sunrise, Venus and Saturn will be in the Eastern sky. Venus will be the brightest object visible in the sky (other than the Moon).
Until next month, just look up!
NASA's new Moon orbiter sent back some really neat pictures last month. These new pictures show what was left on the Moon during the last Moon landing, Apollo 17, that took place almost 40 years ago. In one of the images, you can clearly see the foot tracks from the astronauts walking and driving around. A few of the instruments that were left there can be seen as well. You can even see where the American flag was placed! Check it out at: http://tinyurl.com/yj6dpco . Maybe someday you will see the first boot print on the Moon and make a few new ones!