'Total Earth blackout' due to alignment of Universe? NASA moves to shed light on rumours

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The claim for 2012 links two pieces of astronomical fact- the position of the sun and the winter solstice. (Reuters) The claim for 2012 links two pieces of astronomical fact- the position of the sun and the winter solstice. (Reuters)
SummaryThe claim for 2012 links two pieces of astronomical fact- the position of the sun and the winter solstice.

Rumours are rife that the Sun itself will be totally blacked out by an 'alignment' of the Universe causing those who are easily led astray to hyperventilate about doomsday - using NASA's own data!

The truth is far from that. Here is a mythbuster straight from NASA's Francis Reddy.

Thick dust clouds block our night-time view of the Milky Way, creating what is sometimes called the Dark Rift. The fact that -- from the viewpoint of Earth -- the sun aligns with these clouds, or the galactic center, near the winter solstice is no cause for concern. Credit: A. Fujii

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy -- or perhaps the galaxy's thick dust clouds -- on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm (and, indeed, will not even be at its closest alignment during the 2012 solstice.)

The details are as follows: Viewed far from city lights, a glowing path called the Milky Way can be seen arching across the starry sky. This path is formed from the light of millions of stars we cannot see individually. It coincides with the mid plane of our galaxy, which is why our galaxy is also named the Milky Way.

Thick dust clouds also populate the galaxy. And while infrared telescopes can see them clearly, our eyes detect these dark clouds only as irregular patches where they dim or block the Milky Way's faint glow. The most prominent dark lane stretches from the constellations Cygnus to Sagittarius and is often called the Great Rift, sometimes the Dark Rift.

Another impressive feature of our galaxy lies unseen in Sagittarius: the galactic center, about 28,000 light-years away, which hosts a black hole weighing some four million times the sun's mass.

The claim for 2012 links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third -- the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere -- to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

As Earth makes its way around the sun, the sun appears to move against the background stars, which is why the visible constellations slowly change with the seasons. On Dec.

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