Update On the End of the World

Black Hole Outflows from Centaurus A
Black Hole Outflows from Centaurus A
Source: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)

End of the Mayan Calendar

On December 21 during the winter solstice the Mayan calendar comes to an end. Reaction to this long-awaited event varies greatly. Some would say so what, while others might ask what’s a solstice. Not surprisingly, the actual number of people who believe that the world will come to an end are actually pretty small.

Palenque, Temple_of_the_Inscriptions
The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, Mexico, from Wikipedia, photo by Ricraider

A Strange Encounter

It was a chance encounter in a Santa Fe coffeehouse. The 30-something year old male was planning to be in Mexico for the upcoming solstice to witness the shortest day of the year from a Mayan temple; and have a good time with other observers of the annual celestial event. The prospective traveler did not really expect the world to end, but he did seem susceptible to the New Age idea that this ancient date might usher in a new era of peace and understanding among the human population that now is believed to number around 7 billion. Also, he was reading a book called, Phobos by Steve Alten.

Steve Alten’s Mayan Trilogy Series

Steve Alten is an interesting, if not unusual writer. He is probably best known for his Meg series, a collection of four novels about a giant prehistoric shark found in the deep waters of the Pacific. Steve began his career in college sports medicine, then he decided to write a novel in his spare time. Writing the novel was easy, but selling the manuscript was more difficult. By the time he nailed down a two book deal, he had quit his sports job, gone through his life savings and was barely getting by. His more recently relesed Domain Trilogy uses the Mayan Temples for a backdrop to a fantastic sci-fi complete with time travelers and extra-terrestrial aliens. The three novels in this series are called Domain, Resurrection and Phobos: Mayan Fear.

Solar and Lunar Eclipse

A Solar eclipse from 1999, from Wikipedia, photo by Luc Viatour
A Solar eclipse from 1999, from Wikipedia, photo by Luc Viatour

Recently a small lunar eclipse was observed in the Northern Hemisphere. However, not too far in the recent past a much more pronounced solar eclipse occurred in Australia and the South Pacific. Even though these two events have occurred close to the End of the Mayan Calendar, there is no evidence that they are related. In fact, most scientists do not attribute any special significance to the End of the Mayan Calendar. It is no different from our annual Roman calendar, which ends every 12 months, except there is a much longer time frame involved with the Central American document.

The sun as seen from a NASA space probe
The sun as seen from a NASA space probe

NASA and December 21, 2012

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA, our 4 billion year old planet will not come to an end on December 21, 2012. The alignment of the planets will have a negligible effect on our planet, nor will the planet, Nibiru, crash into the third planet back from the sun. The experts say that if a tenth planet was headed our way, it would show up in the night sky as a very bright object for many weeks before impact. And furthermore, solar activity is expected to remain at its’ current normal levels for the next several years.

Ah shucks, looks like I’m going to have to do my Christmas shopping after all.

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After The End of the World

Io: The Prometheus Plume Credit: Galileo Project, JPL, NASA
Io: The Prometheus Plume Credit: Galileo Project, JPL, NASA

An Ominous Sign

Things on this place look pretty bad. Take careful note of that tiny blue light at the top of the sphere – it’s a violent sulfur eruption and it signals trouble. Fortunately, this is a picture of one of Jupiter’s moons, Prometheus, and should not be confused with our own planet earth. Here, on the blue planet, life  did not come to an end on 6 p.m. Saturday as predicted and the Preakness was run on time. Unfortunately, my horse, Mucho Macho Man lost. Such is life.

All Over the Web

Since most of us are still here on the planet, after the big day, it might be interesting to take a look around the blogosphere and see what’s going on. Trust Me posted this interesting photo here of someone, who was raptured and left behind his nice suit of clothes. And then at the Guardian, Paul Harris speculates and how Harold Camping is faring since the May 21st deadline has passed. In fact, more information is available here, about Mr. Camping, who made a brief appearance yesterday outside his home in California. Meanwhile, for those who await the next end of the world, the Mayan Calendarreaches in terminus in about 19 months. Much more hype will surely accompany this infamous date.

It Looked Like The End of the World

On Saturday, residents of eastern Iceland experienced a geological event that may have looked like the end of the world.  This happened when the Grimsvotn volcano erupted on Saturday and sent towering plumes high into the sky, eventually closing airports in the small island nation. Although this spectacular event may have appeared ominous, when it turned local skies black, the ash plumes are expected to subside soon. Fortunately, no one came up missing after the event, but the fact that the volcano lies beneath a glacial ice sheet might increase concern over changing planetary conditions.

Not So Lucky

However, in Joplin, Missouri and other places around the Midwest, things did not turn out so well. This is because Saturday produced a series of powerful tornadoes some of which were quite deadly. Not only does much of  Joplin look like the end of the world, but nearly a 100 residents have been killed by the monster storm. May is prime tornado season in this part of the country, but the nonetheless the twister that tore through Missouri was quite strong and left a horrific wake behind it.

A Story With Legs

Fishnet Stockings, photo by RJ Ferret, courtesy of Wikipedia
Fishnet Stockings, photo by RJ Ferret, courtesy of Wikipedia

Today an interesting story appeared on Huffington Post concerning the possible appearance of a supernova in the sky near the end of 2012. It is even possible that this celestial event might  coincide with the so-called “End of Days”, which is an integral part of the Mayan Calendar. This is the same “End of Days” that inspired the movie “2012” along with countless books and articles concerning the true significance of the approaching date..

According to the article, Betelgeuse (pronounced beetle juice), one of the brightest stars in the sky, is in a state of collapse and could go “supernova” at any time. Supernovas are caused when a star explodes. This is a natural part of the death cycle of stars and results in the formation of a neutron star or a black hole. The last supernova to be observed on the surface of the earth occurred in 1604.

One interesting side note to this story is its source. Much of the information in the article is attributed to Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland. In a recent article that appeared in News Limited, an Australia news service, Dr. Carter details the effects that a supernova in a nearby star, such as betelgeuse might have on the earth. Currently, this red super-giant is the ninth brightest star in the sky. Along with its twin sister, Rigel It can be found in  the constellation of Orion. Betelgeuse can be seen in the right shoulder of Orion, while Rigel is part of the hunter’s left foot.

The Spotty Surface of Betelgeuse  Credit: Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al.
The Spotty Surface of Betelgeuse Credit: Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al.

Dr. Brad Carter is a Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia and he has acquired a minor presence in the media, almost always in conjunction with betelgeuse and the possibility that it might become the next supernova. Reference to the Australian astronomer has appeared in print dating at least as far back as  2004. So as far as the disintegration of betelgeuse goes, the fact that this event will occur is a generally known fact. The only question that remains is when it will happen and how bright will the explosion be as seen from the surface of earth.

And by the way for those, who are wondering where the term Betelgeuse came from, the word is believed to be of Arabic orign. According to the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy, the word is a “corruption of the Arabic ‘yad al jauza,’ which means the ‘hand of al-jauza,’ al-jauza the ancient Arabs’ ‘Central One,’ a mysterious woman”.