The moon and Venus join together in a conjunction over the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in Florida on February 27, 2009.
Such planetary alignments have inspired many doomsday forecasts, particularly around the May 5, 2000, conjunction, when Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn lined up with the sun and the moon.
Author Richard Noone predicted ice would overtake the world (see eighth photo) as a result of the alignment. And "psychic archaeologist" Jeffrey Goodman asserted in his 1977 book We Are the Earthquake Generation that "quakes and volcanoes [will be] set off around the world and a rift [will] open up as the Earth splits in several places to relieve the stress produced by the shift," New Scientist reported.
(See related picture: "Venus, Jupiter, Moon Smile on Earth.")
But doom and gloom can also spark scientific innovation, as occurred in 1774 in Friesland, the Netherlands. A vicar hoping to boost his congregation circulated a "little book of doom" that said the solar system would be demolished during an upcoming conjunction, according to New Scientist.
As townspeople's panic grew, an amateur astronomer built a planetarium in his living room to allay concerns and explain the true movements of the planets—now the oldest working mechanical planetarium in the world.