The End of the World 12-21-12: What it is and is not

Will the world end this week?  The answer is assuredly no.
Photo: Chitzen Itza, Mike Jaeger

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2012 - Will the world end this week?  The answer is assuredly no.  However, December 21 is an amazing day to be alive on planet Earth.  Something incredible has been shaping up, taking almost 3,000 years to complete.  The culmination of this event happens in just a few days, and to be alive to witness it is far more than a mere once in a lifetime event. 

Early cultures were astute observers the night sky and saw cycles occurring night after night, year after year.  They realized the sky was a timepiece; a way to observe and measure time.  The Mayans were probably the best observers, and they developed a calendar of near-perfect preciseness based on the observations of the night sky.  They were so accurate in their observations and calculations that much of the architecture in the great Mayan city of Chitzen Itza incorporated interaction with the sun and celestial objects.  They built an observatory in the great city specifically to track the movements of Venus, which Mayans worshipped as a God. 

The controversial Maya calendar  (Photo: Peabod)

The controversial Maya calendar (Photo: Peabod)

In our calendar, December 21, 2012 is the beginning of the winter solstice.  It’s really just an ordinary start to the new winter. However, in the Mayan calendar, this day marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new cycle. 

The cycle consisted of 144,000 days (394 years), and marks the end of the 13th “Baktun”.  That’s right folks; this cycle has ended without doom twelve times before, so don’t go giving away all your worldly possessions just yet.

What makes the end of the 13th Baktun so interesting?  It is the fact that the planets in our solar system will nearly align, which only happens once every 2,737 years.  On December 21, 2012, they will be in alignment, starting with Jupiter in the southwestern sky, and then Neptune, Uranus, Mars, Pluto, Mercury, Venus and ending with Saturn. At 5pm EST, Mars, Pluto, Mercury, Venus and Saturn will be below the horizon, out of viewing range with the eye. 

However, most sky-viewing applications for smartphones show the planets in a 360-degree field of view. 

You can download “Sky Map” for Android and “SkyView” for iPhone to witness this miracle at any time of the day.

Therefore, December 21 is a day to be happy you are alive, because you can look up and partially see a celestial wonder that will not be around again for nearly 3,000 years. 

Just imagine what the world will be like the next time a human looks to the heavens and sees what we can see now.  It is not a day of ending, but the pinnacle of a celestial event that took 2,737 years to complete, and the start of a new cycle. 

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Michael Jaeger

Mike Jaeger's column, Greater than Energy (">Energy") can be found under the Health and Science area of the Washington Times Communities and he has been writing this column since July of 2012.  He occasionally writes pieces on economics and politics as well.  He has expertise in energy, energy markets and energy production and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Science and Technology in Nuclear Engineering Technology.


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