NASA Weighs in on End of the World Rumors

Left Field

Rumors that the world is coming to an end this month are greatly exaggerated, according to NASA officials.

Every year or two, there seems to be some sort of rumor that the world is coming to an end. The most recent myth gaining traction is based on the Mayan calendar, which ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Conspiracy theorists say that’s the day the earth will end. However, the most recent fears have found a new audience: children.

David Morrison, a planetary astronomer for NASA, answers questions online each week from the public about astrobiology. He says he’s received more than 5,000 questions about the impending end of the world rumor including some from children.

Morrison is an award-winning astrobiologist who has been a science investigator on NASA’s Mariner, Voyager, and Galileo space missions. He took to the internet recently to assuage fears and definitively answer whether the world will end on Dec. 21. The answer: THE WORLD WILL NOT END ON DEC. 21 according to Morrison.

Something important will happen on December 21, 2012. It’s the first official day of winter in the U.S. Dec. 21. December 21st is the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, with only about 9.5 hours of daylight.

For now, government experts say plan on waking up Dec. 22 and heading to work, school, or wherever else we usually go. On the next few pages we take a look at a few cataclysmic myths that NASA’s Morrison has debunked recently on the NASA website.

Question: Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.

Answer (Morrison): 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.

Question: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?

Answer (Morrison): 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.

Question: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?

Answer (Morrison): 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.

Question: Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?

Answer (Morrison): 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.

Question: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of the world ending in 2012?

Answer (Morrison): 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.

(all credit goes to Becky Kellogg and

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