Astronomical Musings

Let’s get away from the usual ramblings that I tend to, well ramble on about on this personal blog of mine. I want to take a sideswipe at an astronomical observation of mine and wonder what it all means.

It has a lot to do with the Mayan prediction that the world will come to an end next year (2012) as the planets align to bring about some catastrophic event. You see, from an amateur astronomer’s viewpoint, who merely looks up at the sky (on occasion through a telescope of powerful binoculars) or has the ability to plot the positions of the planets to their relative positions in the sky in relation to the rest of the constellations, the planets don’t align next year!

Now I haven’t really gone very deeply into this and I could be hugely mistaken as to the prophesy. I’m just stating what I can see with my own two eyes (and what my smart little computer program can see when I turn it to the future and plot those planetary positions in the sky for next year).

But… and this is interesting (at least to anyone who has a passing interest in astronomy). Venus and Jupiter get very close together in the sky (like almost touching from our perspective) on two occasions and may even appear as one very bright “star” once in the evening around the 13/14 March (close to Aldebaran in Taurus). This is significant, as I can’t be too accurate as to how close they are going to get, but it looks like they could be close enough to appear as a single very bright “Evening Star”. I can well imagine how significant this would be to ancient civilisations that may make the connection between the possible biblical appearance of such a star in the evening heralding the birth of Christ. Those two planets do it again in the morning around 6/7 July as Venus comes back around the sun to become a “morning star”.

Next year is not without its celestial displays of planetary cosiness. Mars and Saturn also get very close together around 14 August (close to Spica in Virgo), although their respective colourings will make them look more like a red/yellow hibrid. Lastly, Venus and Saturn get close together around 26/27 November in the morning, although with Saturn not being so bright (as its rings are still not open very far yet), it won’t be anywhere near as spectacular as the Venus/Jupiter show.

What does all this mean?

Well, it means that from where I’m standing, all 5 planets will not line up in the sky, so I don’t know what that’s all about. What part of this puzzle have I got wrong? Maybe someone with a different projectional program will show a different view of the actual planets in their orbits. Maybe Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn do sort of line up in their real orbits and our earth is in a different place so we don’t see it from here. I don’t know as I don’t access to that kind of thing.

Do I believe the world will end next year?

Nah! Maybe it will end for a few million people who reach the natural end of their lifespan in 2012, but as for major catastrophes, hell, we have Hollywood to blast errant asteroids out of orbit and superheroes aplenty to save us from earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and a mass series of volcano eruptions.

The worst we can do is let some lunatic tinpot dictator get hold of a nuclear device and try and nuke Washington with it. Or allow our fears to overcome us. I forget who said it, but “there is nothing to fear except fear itself”.

Y’all have a nice 2012…

Terry Didcott