Why The World Won’t End On Dec. 21, 2012

Will the world end on Dec. 21? Better not. I’m planning to celebrate the solstice and call my mom.  Photo: Bob King

I know it sounds like a “how does he know it won’t?” headline, but my crystal ball shows nothing unusual happening on that date outside of the winter solstice at 5:12 a.m. (CST).

I like the solstice; it’s cause for optimism for lovers of daylight. My wife surely sees it that way. From Dec. 21 forward, darkness is cast away a minute at a time as the sun ambles back north.

But what about all these dark thoughts people are having about world’s end? By now we’ve all heard it originates with the ancient Mayan calender rumored to come to an end – and bring the world along with it – on Dec. 21. While a “Great Cycle” of the calendar does conclude on that date, a new cycle begins, much like the transition on our Western calendar from Dec. 31, 1999 to Jan. 1, 2000. Granted, a lot of people got freaked out and made crazy predictions during that transition, but did the world change overnight? No.

Mayan mask from 250-600 A.D. on display in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Credit: Wolfgang Sauber

Each Great Cycle of the Mayan calendar lasts 7,885 years, at the conclusion of which the Mayans believed the universe would be destroyed and recreated. While I like to clean house like anybody else, the last time I checked, the universe was still around in 6000 B.C., the approximate date of the conclusion of the previous cycle. This belief was undoubtedly important to Mayan spiritual life, but it’s not connected to the real world as we know it. No matter what calendar you consult, ancient or new, they’re all man-made devices with no sway whatsoever over the powers of nature.

No planets will be in any particular alignment on Dec. 21, 2012. This view shows the solar system seen from above the north pole of the Earth. Illustration: Bob King

Then there’s all the chatter of a planetary alignment and how the combined gravity of the planets will rock the Earth or split the Earth or send a beam of supercharged particles at Earth or … fill in the blank.

First, there are no planetary alignments on or around Dec. 21, 2012. Matter of fact, the first week of December has been filled with great alignments of Venus, Mercury, Saturn and the moon, and we’re none the worse for it.

All’s quiet on Dec. 21. The quarter moon will be in Pisces the Fish and Jupiter shining brightly in Taurus in the evening sky (left). Venus and Saturn are visible in the south before and at dawn. Created with Stellarium

Even if all the planets queued up in a perfectly straight line with the Earth and sun, the amount of additional tug on Earth would be negligible. Certainly not enough to raise tides like the much closer moon and much weightier sun do.

Next we bump into the made-up planet Nibiru that’s supposed to be on a collision course with Earth. Nobody, not NASA, not a single professional observatory anywhere, no spacecraft and no amateur astronomer has ever detected or photographed any sign of this fictional world. If it were headed toward our planet and big enough to crush us like so many bugs, it would be so close by now we’d see it with the naked eye.

You may have also heard how the sun will line up directly over the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, triggering beams of radiation that will turn the Earth into over-grilled hamburger. Fact-checking shows that the sun will not line up with the central black hole because its path across the sky lies well to the north of this location. Even if it did, the the two are separated by 27,000 light years, a distance so vast they’re completely unrelated to one another. Lineups do little to enhance gravity’s attraction despite the human mind’s obvious attraction to linearity.

The sun will shine from the constellation Sagittarius the Archer well to the northeast of the galactic center, site of our galaxy’s supermassive black hole. Illustration: Bob King

Gravity is the weakest of the four forces that include electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces. While it acts over great distances, lining things up in a row only affects another planet when the objects you’re lining up are relatively large and very close – like the moon – or extremely massive and relatively close, like the sun. The strength of gravity or any other interaction between the sun and the black hole in the center of the galaxy is virtually nil. Likewise for small objects like nearby comets and asteroids.

Powerful solar flare on May 9, 2012 photographed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA

Speaking of the sun, some are predicting a massive solar flare on the first day of winter. That’s always possible, but no one, not even top solar scientists, can forecast the date of a solar storm, only a probability. Since we’re approaching the high or active end of the current sunspot cycle when storms are more common, a flare is more likely now than when the solar activity bottoms out at minimum.

The sun’s up and down cycle has been happening for hundreds of years; a normal to below normal amount of activity is expected when the current cycle peaks in May 2013.

We can’t end without addressing the pole switch-over, which isn’t about Earth’s axis flipping about – that’s nicely stabilized by the moon – but the north and south magnetic poles changing places. Some are predicting a flip-flop on Dec. 21. While this really does happen, it occurs rarely; about once every 200,000 to 300,000 years (or longer). The one occurred about 800,000 years ago. Since then the magnetic poles have wandered this way and that, but compasses needles still point north and will continue to do so for thousands more years.

Schematic illustration of Earth’s magnetic field. Our iron-nickel core and spinning rotation create a magnetic field around the planet that causes our compass needles to point north. Credit and copyright: Peter Reid

Even when switch-overs happen, they’re gradual and take up to a few thousand years to complete. Since Earth and its bevy of life, including humans during the most recent flip, have survived, we’ll undoubtedly make it through the next one.

I’ve heard of some really nutty stuff like the particle accelerator at CERN sending protons into the Earth, creating a chain-reaction that blows giant holes in the ground, releasing firestorms of methane gas. The minute amounts of matter involved in these experiments are self-contained not to mention it’s difficult to imagine exactly how a chain-reaction could be started. Earth rock isn’t made of highly processed nuclear materials just waiting for a fuse.

I think I do understand why we’re obsessed with end-of-world scenarios. It was built-in by evolution as a way for us to anticipate the worst and act to ensure our survival. Fair enough. But when it’s co-opted by people who either don’t understand the fundamentals of nature and science or who do, but prey on the fears and ignorance of others to enhance their status or make money, it’s wrong. That’s why the more observant you are of the world, the less heed you’ll pay to those who distort the truth.

That includes accepting the fact that volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, droughts and meteor hits are part of the price we pay for living on an active, evolving planet. No magical alignments or minuscule comets are necessary to explain these behaviors. While there are many things we still don’t know, based on what we do know, there’s no reason to fear Dec. 21, 2012.

Whenever you hear someone say the world will end on this or that date, remember that thousands of people before them predicted the same and yet we’re all still here paying the bills and shopping for Christmas. Even if the worst were to happen, say a 5-mile-diameter asteroid crashing into Earth, life would sustain some serious damage, but the remaining plants, animals and humans would go on to populate the future. We live in one tough neighborhood, but have what it takes to survive.

And if I’m wrong on Dec. 21 and the world does end, I’ll be very embarrassed. Promise.

89 Responses

  1. James

    Great article bob i been trying help people with this for over two years now telling people why it wont end if you don’t mind i like to share this with some of those people.But i fear more for the young who do not understand and told the world going to end and mess up their christmas instead of having a great month enjoying all christmas fun they are worried the world is going to end and the worst thinking about suicidal thoughts i hope they see the truth in all this and see its a BIG money scam to get you buy their books videos surival kits and more

  2. Jo

    Great article- I grew up in a family of science and history buffs so it’s been very hard for me to keep a straight face when people start talking seriously about doomsday bunkers and solar flares, etc. Unless the Mayans set some time bomb to go off on the 21st, I doubt they have more insight that the rest of us. After all, there is evidence they sacrificed the losing team/team captain of their favorite ball game. Not exactly who I’d trust to predict the end of the world. Which reminds me, it’s a good thing the Mayans don’t run the MN Vikings….

    1. astrobob

      Hi Jo,
      Thanks for writing. I saw one of those Mayan playing fields some years ago in Mexico. If anyone was that good of a player to get the ball through that next-to-impossible hoop, they deserved accolades and a chance for a winning trophy, not death. But then, I would not make a good Mayan.

  3. Jean

    Ok, so here it goes. I am super scared and stressed out because there are people saying that NASA is covering up info so we don’t panic. Well, of course when I read that, I started to panic. I can’t sleep at night but I am so tired. I haven’t been eating because I am so nauseous and nervous. What do I do to get my mind off of this? I just want to make sure that me and my family are safe.

    1. astrobob

      Someone always says that about NASA. Just the little guys picking on the big guy. Baring some unforeseen disaster – which can happen any day at any moment whether tomorrow or a million years down the road – we’re safe.

      1. Jean

        So I don’t have to be scared? I am finding it difficult to enjoy the holiday season with my family. I don’t know if I should get help with my anxiety. Was there this much controversy with y2k as with this ?

        1. astrobob

          Yes, there was a lot of controversy and many stories warning of troubles in advance of the change. Kind of a nothing event.

    2. Gary

      Some perspective can be really helpful. The fact is that you and your family will die someday no matter how much you worry about it. It might be Dec 21st, it might be 70 years from now. Therefore, the only sane choice you can make is to relax and enjoy every moment of being alive with your family as much as you can. When your time comes, would you rather look back on your life and see that you fully experienced each moment with your loved ones or that you reduced the quality of your life (and by extension theirs also) by worrying about things you have no control over and aren’t going to happen anyway? Live in the moment!

  4. Jenna

    Thanks for the info Astro Bob!
    Also, taking leap years into consideration, hasn’t the Mayan date already passed?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Jenna,
      You’re welcome. Yes, I believe the date has passed – that’s what I gather from our other readers.

    1. James

      Firstly read the article.
      If you aren’t convinced, read this.

      There is no proof that Planet X exists. If it did, it would be visible right now, 11 days before the ‘end’.

      The Mayans made a calendar, so it will reset itself when it reaches that day. If they did predict the world to end, then think of this. The Mayans couldn’t dress themselves, let alone predict the future.

      Zombies, well, take a guess if that is realistic. If you want the zombie apocalypse to happen, play Black Ops.

      The poles will not shift. It hasn’t done for the last 800,000 years, so how the hell could somebody predict the exact date correctly?

      The biggest risk is the Large Hadron Collider, but trust me, these are EUROPEAN scientists. They know what they’re doing.

      Solar flares just make radios go all weird. To the extent of my knowledge, they cant cause a global catastrophe.

      The next asteroid to even come near the Earth will be in 2029, it will not make contact, but it will be very close, and extremely awesome to watch.

      Trust me Amy, the world will not end. If you still don’t believe me, just deny it. If it does indeed end, you can’t be going telling me ‘I told you so!’, because we all would be exploded.

      I’m aware that last bit didn’t help. I’m just not afraid of it, and neither should you.

  5. I

    Hi, thank you for this article. I actually don’t want to believe in this hoax, but it’s everywhere around me, so for few days I can’t get it of my mind, I just keep checking if there are more news about it, like I’m out of control. Then I read some article like this one, and I feel good, everything make sense, but then I see dozens of conspiracy texts , and it all mixes u in my mind, now I don’t even know what to think. How can I overcome this? I think that life is beautiful, and that there are lot of evil people who want to scare people and they don’t even know what they’re talking about but I am so stressed, i think i ll get ill. I just wanna enjoy snow, and new year happiness, i want to be positive but i really think i am out of my control and i feel bad about it 🙁

    1. astrobob

      All those things you want to do – just do them and forget the doomsayers, who’ve been with us since the dawn of human history.

      1. I

        Thank you so much Bob! I really needed those words, i was even thinking about going to the psyhologists or to church for help ! The worst thing about all this is that are children, young people like I am who are scared because this hoax, and even worse than that, when dec.21 pass, there’ll be new doomsayers who’ll just move the date to some day in near future, and again scare children, sick people and people with lack of strong personality. Why? Why can’t all just work on upgrading and improving our enviroment with taking care of how they behave to our planet, with spreading love instead hate, peace instead wars and killing 🙁
        Anyway they succeed to scare me, and I hate myself because I let myself be scared and destroy my days by blowing my mind with conspiracy theories about nasa and all other stuff

      2. Nancy Tollefson




  6. James

    for people wanting to read the true facts behind this hoax please check out 2012hoax.org it has the TRUTH behind all this and will help relax you and show u there is nothing to worry about enjoy your holidays don’t live in fear.

      1. caralex

        What’s wrong with pointing out an excellent site that goes into great detail to dispel the silly rumours? 2012hoax.org is well worth taking a look at.

        1. astrobob

          Hi Carol,
          Yes, that was suggested by another reader as well as myself earlier, but it bears repeating again. Matter of fact, I think I’ll put it up as a link on the blog page. Thanks!

  7. Jean

    I just read something crazy …a lot of people are buying bunkers in response to the 12/21/12 theories. Are these people smart or are they just scared as I am? But, then I read that in Mexico they are planning parties for that day. So that made me feel a bit better

  8. elise

    I am Elise i am only ten years old. At first I was terrified about the world ending on the 21st December, thank you for reasuring me can you reply to me for that I am definately reassured. Its my mums email address because I do not have one.
    Love Elise x

  9. MBZ

    Oh my. I go away for a few weeks, just to return to the world ending? The laundry can wait. Tell Mom I said “Hi” 😉

  10. Jean

    There was this guy online who couldn’t give out names but just said that we should worry because astrophysists were buying bunkers too.

      1. Jean

        Ok whew. I didnt think it was real but of course the paranoia is there, I apologize but it’s always good to get another opinion. The human mind is a horrible thing sometimes it makes people really worry.

  11. Dennis Kelly

    The latest thing I am hearing from teenagers (where are they getting this stuff – at school?) is a huge meteoroid cloud will envelop the Earth for three days starting at 1 a.m. on 21 Dec. This will totally darken the skies, even in the daytime, knock out all electrical circuits and will plunge us into really record cold (for the season) temps. We are advised to stay home (can’t go anywhere that will be up and running anyway and just wait it out. Our science community supposedly knows this and is not saying anything to prevent a panic. My first thought was this is the last shopping weekend before Christmas, so I went out and got all my shopping done early. I told the kids if they believe this, to start bringing lots of wood up to the back patio so its ready to heat the house during the three days of darkness and cold. We have enough food on hand to keep us fat for a month or two and with no electricity and record cold, no need to worry about the food defrosting. I think this could be a lot of fun, so am kind of looking forward to it – NOT. So much for the government schools I guess – at least at 66, I’m ready to go, but feel a bit sorry for the youngsters and especially my grandkids, but maybe better to go quick than to slip away over decades into economic oblivion?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Dennis,
      What teenagers won’t come up with to get off from school. I think you can happily ignore this. Instead, why not bake some Christmas cookies on the 21st to celebrate the first day of winter.

      1. Dennis Kelly

        Sad for the kids, they don’t even get to miss school for this, like they really did when we had no electricity for many days on end after Hurrican Ike raked Ohio back in 2008.

  12. john g

    This is all a big scam! Its people who are evil making these predictions. They say this date has been predicted for thousands of years. I only found out about it in 2007. Its making me sick thinking about how the evil are controlling the world. When this date of Dec 21 2012 passes ,and people start predicting new dates,I think the world governments should send these people to prison for life. I know its freedom of speech but to me its also a crime. Only God knows when the world will end,so these evil people should keep their mouths shut.

  13. Jean

    Hey bob!

    So, I have another question for you. Only because I can’t seem to get this feeling out of my head. What about the earth’s humming? I have heard so many things about this. Is this a sign?

  14. Jean

    Ok thanks. Not sure what the humming is. So as for the asteroid that was just discovered, does this mean that there are other harmful things that we don’t know about that could just come up without warning?

    1. astrobob

      There are an estimated one million 30-meter asteroids. These aren’t the ones to worry about. When one of those hits, they break up in the atmosphere and if we’re lucky drop occasional meteorites. It’s the ones larger than about 100 meters that approach within 5 million miles of Earth that are potentially hazardous. There are an estimated 4,700 of those, about 30% of which have been found to date.

  15. Layla

    Hi bob thanks for the article it eased my mind some but I still have to get thru it just like Elenin that was crazy last year and caused so much drama and U were right about that…. I just keep thinking about leap year wasn’t that fairly new and if so wouldn’t the Mayan calendar be up months or even years ago? My mom is sort of a nut and she worries about everything lol I love her to death but she worries so much about us do u have any advice on what to tell her to ease her mind I’m only 12 so a lil help would be great thanks so much… And I did a report on u for school it was awesome I got an -A my science teacher was very impressed thanks so much…..

    1. astrobob

      Thanks Layla, and I’m happy to know you got an A on your report. Your mom can read my recent blog on why the world won’t end or go to 2012hoax.org for more information. The main thing is this: ignore ALL talk about the world ending. It’s just people either trying to scare others or make money.

  16. jadey

    Thankyou for writing this article it has helped a little to put my mind at rest it has been on my mind for months this world ending senario and now i have seen this article and others on the NASA website i think i can say my mind is at rest a bit more 🙂

  17. jadey

    Oh yeah and 1 more thing people say that the world is going to end at 11:11am on the 21st well this has gotta be wrong cuz when its morning here in the uk its night time in australia so yano and this big planet nibru or watever if this were to be hitting earth on the 21 we would all be able to see it (by now anyway) we can see the moon at night and the sun so i think we would all be able to see a planet that is ment to be this close to hitting us !!

    1. astrobob

      You can safely ignore Nostradamus who was a 16th century version of the current crop of doomsayers. Anyone can predict there will be terrible evils in the world exactly the same way you can imagine equally wonderful events. And many have predicted “the end” only to be wrong every single time.

  18. Ashley

    I’ve been worried about this for a while now. I’m literally sick of people talking about the end. I know after a lot of research i understand that it won’t happen. You have cleared a lot up for me and I’m very thankful since I’ve been very nervous and sometimes nauseous just thinking about everything. I appreciate everything. I’m gonna live my life and I’m just gonna laugh at everyone who told me other wise when I wake up on December 22nd!

  19. julia

    thank you for this article i have not slept for weeks worrying i have two small children and one on the way and this is all that occupies my mind. I saw an article claiming that Nibriu does exsit by Frank Lark i take it this is all nonsense to?? I just need to know all be ok

  20. Kelly

    Hey 🙂 Iv read this article and although I didn’t really think too much of the rubbish rumours anyway it really helped me to explain things to my kids who are all really frightened. I feel that these people who are scaring innocent people should in fact be punished as criminals. Is senseless immaturity.I mean by my calculations the world has ‘ended’ about 7 times in 10 yrs! I don’t believe in any collision with a planet or asteroids hitting the earth I believe that the worlds biggest threat is from mankind itself.

  21. leslie

    Hey Bob i love all the info u have provided to us that are scared. Im at work today and my coworkers start taking about 3 days of darkness…first i immedietly thought of comet eileen… And now my quesion is can that even happen?? And since winter solstice starts at 5:12am central time.so 3:12am california time..isnt that when the world would end or so they say?? I feel like all this.crap is giving me bad anxiety and way to much fear…so if anyone wants to chime in and help out..fell free.

  22. Amber

    I’ve heared of this volcano in the yellow stone national park that’s going to epurpt soon and there predicting it to be in Decmeber, and the the explosion will be so huge that the earth atmoshpere is going to full up with ashes and kill us all. So got any edvience how that not true? A little worried here…

    1. astrobob

      While Yellowstone will probably blow again, there’s no prediction for it to happen anytime soon. The last time was 640,000 years ago, and before that, 1.2 million years ago. It’ll probably be a long time before it happens.

  23. Karin

    Thank you so much for writing this article. As many others around me i too am very nervous and have been for over a year now. With little kids anything you hear affects you. I know there are many things that can happen but so many things happening all at once was unsetteling. Also the whole pople shift thing is freaking me out. Thank you again , i shared your article with many of my friends that were concerned as well.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Karin,
      Thank you very much for writing and saying. I appreciate it. I think we’ll all make it through this just fine.

  24. I came on your site by searching on pictures. Nice!
    I am not an astrologer, but am recently more interested since I’ve heard about astrotheology.
    What I read in your story here is that you say there is no special alignment on 21-12-12. To my knowing the special event/alignment is that of the greatyear in which we move in a different house Aquarius. The alignment between our sun Helios with our TwinSun Sirius is also changing.
    I recommend the lectures of Santos Bonacci to you (see my website) and as a comment on your picture of the Solar System. I rather see a picture of a Vortex Solar System and recommend Walter Russell.

  25. James

    do u know about where we are in the galactic plane im trying to prove to some people we are above it and wont cross it again till another 30 million years from now but u know how these people are so i wanted to ask you about it thank you very much

    1. astrobob

      The sun is about 20-100 light years from the galactic plane and currently moving farther from it in a long cycle. The Earth and planets revolve around the sun at a 60 degree angle to the plane – in other words, the solar system is tipped at a steep angle relative to the plane.

  26. leslie

    So there is a lineup??? Its getting closer… Any new info on the dec 21st thing??? Im still nervous…shaking in my boots bob…

    1. astrobob

      There is no lineup. Nothing astronomical/celestial out of the ordinary is expected – just the winter solstice. You can read my “Why the world won’t end on Dec. 21” blog for more details.

  27. jason

    hello bob! what an amazing article! honestly the hype of it all makes peoples minds very sick.. and there is more evidence suggesting the world will continue then the world will end! people.. relax.. i promise you the world wont end cmon.. only god knows when he is ready to take his followers into his beautiful kingdom. i love you jesus. night everyone

  28. zola mongolia

    Hello Bob
    Thanks for the article. Last days i have been stressed a lot about 21december. Now i feel much better. From now i do not need to search more information about disaster.

  29. leslie

    Hey sooo is this possible or have yoy heard about this??

    This rumor, circulating in spam emails, claims that NASA is predicting a total Earth blackout between Dec. 23 and Dec. 25. Way to ruin Christmas!

    Some emails claim that this blackout will occur as the result of the sun and Earth aligning for the first time, while others spin a wild tale about Earth entering “a still ring” called the Photonic belt. Whatever the alleged cause, this is simply not going to happen, according to NASA.

    “There is no such alignment,” agency officials write.

  30. Ruben

    Hi I am 14 years old I am scared to death . I want to enjoy the holidays , but it is hard to stop thinking about friday . I also live in South Africa . So BTW what time is the world sepoused to end? Please give me advise

    1. astrobob

      There’s nothing stopping you – or me – from enjoying the holidays. Nothing terrible or out of the ordinary will happen Friday.

      1. Ruben

        Thanks Astrobob ,
        You gave me confidence . I would try to enjoy the holiday . And Merry Christmass . BTW thankyou for this page and all your hard work .

          1. Deb Premraj

            Thank you for these Life assuring words.Time and Space is gift from God and I wish to thank you for your Life affirming words. God Bless.

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