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