The Galactic Alignment

Are you prepared? During the winter solstice on December 21, 2012, the plane of the ecliptic — the rough flat plane which the objects of our Solar System inhabit — will intersect with the Dark Rift so prominent in our night sky. This Galactic Alignment occurs only once every 26,000 years and signifies the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. And, oh yeah, all of this also aligns with the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Some think we might have a mass extinction brought on by the Sun’s orbit disrupting the Oort Cloud. Did I mention that somehow the Earth’s magnetic poles could reverse themselves?

You know what all of this means, don’t you? Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. The dead rising from the grave (mmm BRAINZ). Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together. . . mass hysteria!

The Dark Rift is actually a dark dust-bowl of clouds estimated to contain 1 million solar masses of plasma. It also obscures the Cygnus OB2 star cluster — “one of the largest regions of star formation near the Earth.” Scientists have pointed out that the galactic equator is an arbitrary line because we can’t determine the exact boundaries of the Milky Way due to how clear (or not) our view of it is.

Plus, it all already happened in 1998. When we were all freaking out over Y2K.

Doomsday theories aside, the universe is pretty darn majestic. So while others are dishing about what may or may not happen in December 2012 — Atlantis may rise from the ocean’s depths, aliens might abduct us, or the Ark of the Convenant might be revealed in a Smithsonian warehouse — I’ll be keeping tabs on the Astronomy Picture of the Day and the wonders we already know exist. Some of my favorites include The Milky Way Over Tenerife , The North America Nebula in Infrared, and Night of the Perseids. My all-time favorite is Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway:

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

What about you? What are some of your favorite views of the night sky or space photos?



  1. Love this post, Lisa! When superstition meets pseudo-science, spectacular silliness abounds. The movie 2012 almost made me want that crazy s#@t to happen for real, so I could have my very own end-of-the-world rollercoaster experience (stunt limo optional). Fact: a scary number of people believe “something” very bad is going to happen in December next year. Um, me too–it’s called the Christmas No.1.

    Btw, that Ghostbusters quote-ROFL

  2. Love the post & the pictures! I’m bookmarking the Astronomy Picture of the day.

    I’ve never believed the Mayans were predicting the end of the world… I’ve always kind of assumed it was “Okay, we’ve got the calendar done until 2012. Think it’s time for a break?” And then the Europeans came, and there was smallpox, and they never got back to it.

  3. Great post. I’m partial to aurora pics. When we lived in Fairbanks, we would get great views of the aurora. Unfortunately, the best time to see them is usually at 2 a.m. when it’s 50 below.

    I don’t buy into the 2012 end of the world thing (and hope I won’t be unpleasantly surprised). KC’s bit about no longer working on the calendar reminds me of a cartoon I saw recently. One Mayan is holding the tablet with the calendar ending at 2012. Another Mayan says, “Nah, just stop there. That’ll really mess with their minds.”

  4. Ooooh, le shiny! Thanks for sharing those links.

  5. Yeah, I’m not in with the end of the world idea. But I do beleive that a reversal of the magnetic poles is inevitable – just probably not that particular day. But the pictures of the universe – soooo cool.


  6. The poles have reversed themselves before, haven’t they? And they are slowly doing so now. One of the big problems I’ve heard that when it gets to a certain point the magnetic field, which protects us from the incredible blasts of solar radiation, will be weakened and we’ll go kablooey. Yeah… Have a great weekend! 🙂

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