Desert Evenings: The doomsday prophecy

2012-12-07 16:53:14
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My advice: Don't take it seriously. The world cannot end in one day!

Hundreds of years ago, the ancient Mayans predicted the end of a major astronomical cycle and the beginning of a new one. Remarkably, this occurs on the winter solstice of this year, Dec. 21 (the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere). It’s also the earliest winter solstice since 1896.

On that day, the sun shifts from Sagittarius (the archer) to Capricorn (the goat), and temporarily aligns with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. This is thought to be an area of extreme gravitational attraction and will generate a strong tidal pull on the sun, Earth and the entire solar system. This, combined with the higher tides caused by a full moon on Dec. 28, may cause severe effects, but it won’t be the “end of the world.”

The Mayan prophecy promises that this time will be accompanied by large-scale flooding, and biblical scholars say the last time this occurred coincided with the Great Flood of Noah. Doomsayers are predicting California’s long-awaited “Big One,” and even that the coast of California west of San Andreas Rift Zone will fall into the Pacific Ocean. And even more catastrophic weather events, plus our predicted El Niño winter. But even those won’t be the “end of the world.”

Jupiter, in Taurus, near Aldebaran (the “eye of the bull”), reached opposition on Jan. 2 and will be visible all night long. It’s our only evening “star” this month and next. Venus, now very low in the pre-dawn sky, Mars (in Leo), and Saturn (in Virgo) are morning “stars.”

We have two meteor showers this month. The Geminids occur all night on Dec. 13 and 14. The Ursids are pre-dawn on Dec. 23.

We will continue our exploration of the planets in January and describe the major visible constellations, too. I am confident that Jan. 1, New Year’s Day, will occur on schedule. Have a great Christmas and don’t be overly concerned about the “end of the world.”

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