by Natalie Wolchover
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have put out a new video to address false claims about the "Mayan apocalypse," a non-event that some people believe will bring the world to an end on Dec. 21.
In the video, which was posted online Wednesday (Mar. 7), Don Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Objects Program Office at NASA/JPL, explains away many of the most frequently cited doomsday scenarios. [See video]
Addressing the belief that the calendar used by the ancient Mayan civilization comes to a sudden end in December 2012, and that this will coincide with a cataclysmic, world-ending event, Yeomans said: "Their calendar does not end on December 21, 2012; it's just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. It's just like on December 31, our calendar comes to an end, but a new calendar begins on January 1."
Yeomans also attempted to allay fears regarding potential causes of a Mayan apocalypse, including Nibiru, an imaginary planet that some people think is swinging in from the outer solar system just in time to collide with Earth in December. "This enormous planet is supposed to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would have seen it long ago. And if it were invisible somehow, we would have seen the [gravitational] effects of this planet on neighboring planets. Thousands of astronomers who scan the sky on a daily basis have not seen this," he said. [Believers In Mysterious Planet Nibiru Await Earth's End]
He added that there is zero possibility of a NASA cover-up. "Can you imagine thousands of astronomers who observe the skies on a daily basis keeping the same secret from the public for several years?"
As for solar flares, Yeomans explained that these do exist — in fact, two massive solar flares erupted just days ago, sending bursts of solar radiation into space — but they are part of the sun's normal 11-year cycle. Radiation from solar flares can damage orbiting satellites, but Earth's magnetosphere shields its inhabitants from the blasts, and the flares are not a health concern.
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