The World Won’t End in 2012, NASA Explains Why

Goodlifer: The World Will Not End in 2012, NASA Explains Why

As December 21 — the date many believe the Mayans predicted would mark the end of the world — draws near, we wonder: what should we expect to happen on Friday?

Like us, the Mayans used several calendars, including a 365-day solar calendar, commonly known as the Haab, with months and days much like ours, but the one that we are concerned with here is the Long Count calendar, which “started” not at zero, but at 13.0.0.0.0, and in late December 2012 will reach 13.0.0.0.0 (entering the next b’ak’tun) again for the first time in 5125 years. Similar to how we celebrate the coming of each new year as the clock strikes midnight on December 31, the Mayans saw this as a special time that should be celebrated. Sandra Noble, executive director of the Mesoamerican research organization Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI), notes that “for the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle.”

An expert in the topic, she considers the portrayal of December 21, 2012 as a doomsday to be “a complete fabrication,” as does some of the world’s most prominent scientists at NASA. In a report titled Beyond 2012: Why the World Won’t End, published online, NASA scientists offer answers to common questions surrounding this highly anticipated date, which, they say, won’t be the end of the world as we know, but just another winter solstice:

Q: Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.
A:The world will not end 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 and 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 December 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 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.

Q: Is NASA predicting a “total blackout” of Earth on Dec. 23 to Dec. 25?
A: Absolutely not. Neither NASA nor any other scientific organization is predicting such a blackout. The false reports on this issue claim that some sort of “alignment of the Universe” will cause a blackout. There is no such alignment (see next question). Some versions of this rumor cite an emergency preparedness message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. This is simply a message encouraging people to be prepared for emergencies, recorded as part of a wider government preparedness campaign. It never mentions a blackout.
Watch the Video

Q: Could planets align in a way that impacts Earth?
A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. One major alignment occurred in 1962, for example, and two others happened during 1982 and 2000. 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.
More about alignment

“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…” – Don Yeomans, NASA senior research scientist

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.

Q: What is the polar shift theory? Is it true that the Earth’s crust does a 180-degree rotation around the core in a matter of days if not hours?
A: A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-switch to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. Scientists believe a magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia.
More about polar shift

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 Near-Earth Object Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.

Q: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of the world ending in 2012?
A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we 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.
Why you need not fear a supernova
About super volcanoes

Q: Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?
A: Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.
› Video: Solar Storms
More about solar storms

So, the end of the Mayan calendar does mark the end of times but rather the end of a certain time and a transition from one World Age to another. In addition to the Mayans, many Native Americans recognized this as well, and urge us to move through this time with heightened awareness of our actions, peacefulness and humility. The transition offers us a chance to reconsider our approach to the future and, thus, contribute to making it brighter and happier.

No matter if you believe in that or not, it seems like a good opportunity for us all to take a moment to consider how we want to live on this planet, don’t you think?

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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