Good news: the world is not going to end on December 21st 2012, as the Mayans (supposedly) predicted. Yay!
Bad news: it’s actually ending on the 17th instead – next Monday.
The whole business about the hysteria surrounding the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar is based upon the idea that the end of the cycle is occurring at the same time the Sun, Earth and Galactic Centre are in alignment. Actually this is a gross over simplification. The whole business is actually based upon exploiting the pathetic neuroses of a large number of gullible people who feel their lives have no meaning if they aren’t looking forward to the end of the world. But I digress. The sun / earth / galactic centre coincidence is what is mainly fuelling the pre-occupation with the forthcoming end of the Mayan Calendar.
There is at least one problem with this however: the Sun, Earth and Galactic Centre won’t actually be aligning on December 21st – they will already have come into alignment four days previously: at 10.46pm GMT on Monday 17th December 2012, to be exact.
The exact position of the Galactic Centre is 17h 45m 40.4s of Right Ascension – which in terms of the Tropical Zodiac is equivalent to 26º 25′ 6″ Sagittarius. It is fairly easy to use astrology software to find out when the Sun will share the same degree of longitude, and hence mark the moment of the Sun – Earth alignment (see above).
But before we get too upset and be all doomy and gloomy, there are a number of reasons to say that even this will not mark the end of the world per se. Firstly, the Sun / Earth / Galactic Centre line up on a regular basis: once a year, every year, around about the same date. Hence, instead of looking forward to the end of the world just in 2012, we ought by rights to be looking forward to it every year!
Secondly, although the Galactic Centre is 17h 45m 40.4s Right Ascension, its Declination is -29° 00′ 28.1″. Note that because of the tilt of the Earth, the Sun’s own declination can never fall below -23º 30′, so in fact on the day of the alignment the Galactic centre won’t actually be completely aligned with the Sun and Earth but will appear (or would appear if it were visible) slightly beneath the Sun from our point of view. Five and a half degrees may not sound like much to you and me, but in terms of heavenly bodies, one of which is 27,000 light years away, the difference quite literally is astronomical.
Thirdly, were I to invoke astrology, I would say that looking at a chart drawn for the moment of the alignment does not actually show anything remarkable. If I were to predict what will happen on that day I would say that probably there would be yet another dip on the stock market occurring at the same time as yet another prominent public figure being revealed as part of a shady cover-up, leading to widespread public outrage. So in other words, just an ordinary day like any other – but crucially not the end of the world.
Interestingly though, I have heard anecdotal evidence that there is a statistical correlation between when the Sun is aligned with the Galactic centre and an increase of psychic activity on planet Earth. I therefore suggest the following course of action for the poor benighted inhabitants of this planet.
- If you are a magician – use the evening (Monday) for conducting magical rituals.
- If you are a policeman – may I suggest there is another nonce waiting to be arrested as part of Operation Yew Tree, so please do so.
- If you are an investor – go short on the stock market.
- Everyone else – calm down, calm down!
Finally, as to December 21st itself, may I suggest that it probably won’t be the end of the world: it is however the last Friday before Christmas, so it is a perfect time to go out and have a party – which is probably how the Mayans would have celebrated the end of their calendar anyway.