It’s the New Year! Repent! Armageddon is near!
Well, in a sense, we’re all fighting endgame battles on a daily basis that ultimately no one wins. But, will an unstoppable supernatural hand wipe us all out in one fell swoop?
For fun, while we wait for the full moon to wane, let’s use the next predicted Doomsday prophecy of 2012 as our example. If we look it is not difficult to find records of people all over the planet in groups or individually predicting the end of the world. At the close of the last century Y2K fever had the masses driven into a tizzy over the potential collapse of the precious digital computer networks and the chaos that would surely follow. It didn’t happen.
Is Y2012 any more probably indicative of a universal malfunction than Y2K was? Experts in the field of the Maya claim that the Mayans have no word for the term “apocalypse” and that it has been exported from western civilization, which is fond of forecasting doom. So, if the Maya themselves did not place any apocalyptic importance upon the date in their calendar, why should we?
Are there any signs we can look for to warn of us impending doom?
In the past (and the present) humans have looked to the skies for portents of disaster. An eclipse, a passing comet, planetary conjunctions and the like could portend all sorts of things to those that let their minds slip into the realm of superstition and uninformed, unblinking belief.
In August of 2011 we can expect a comet to pass within close proximity to Earth. The comet has been observed before and it has a name: 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova. It will come within six million miles of Earth. Astronomically speaking, six million miles is an exceptionally close fly-by. The Moon is on average approximately 239,000 miles away. It is very probable that the comet fly-by will be a grand viewing event. It is also very probable that its advent will stir the Doomsday pot of hysteria anew.
The good news, for the hysterical, is that no single event could possibly destroy all biology on Earth in one move. The planet will roll along. Some biology will persist and eventually new life will evolve much like it did after the last major extinction event. The only potentially unsettling conclusion drawn from scientific observation is that nothing is 100 percent predictable throughout all of time and space as far as we know. This actually opens the door to fun concepts like the possibility of individual freewill as opposed to cold-cut scientific determinism. I observe that personal fun is a more rewarding and joyful pastime than mass hysteria and doom.
Gunnison Valley Observatory houses the largest community telescope in Colorado. Please contact the GVO at (970) 642-1111 or www.gunnisonobservatory.org.