MYTH: Galactic Alignment Spells Doom
Some sky-watchers believe 2012 will close with a "galactic alignment," which will occur for the first time in 26,000 years (for example, see the Web site Alignment 2012
In this scenario, the path of the sun in the sky would appear to cross through what, from Earth, looks to be the midpoint of our galaxy, the Milky Way. In good viewing conditions the Milky Way appears as a cloudy stripe across the night sky, as in the above, undated photo taken on Easter Island.
Some fear that the lineup will somehow expose Earth to powerful unknown galactic forces that will hasten its doom--perhaps through a "pole shift" (see first picture) or the stirring of the supermassive black hole at our galaxy's heart.
But, NASA's Morrison said, "there is no 'galactic alignment' in 2012," he said, "or at least nothing out of the ordinary."
A type of "alignment" occurs during every winter solstice, when the sun, as seen from Earth, appears in the sky near what looks to be the midpoint of the Milky Way.
Horoscope writers may be excited by alignments, Morrison said. But "the reality is that alignments are of no interest to science. They mean nothing." They create no changes in gravitational pull, solar radiation, planetary orbits, or anything else that would impact life on Earth.
ON TV 2012: Countdown to Armageddon airs Sunday, November 15, at 7 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel. Preview >>
Photograph by Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic Stock