Talk about the supposed end of the world associated with the Mayan calendar seems to be growing in Internet circles, but NASA scientists have once again released a video explaining why doomsday fears are unfounded.
According to Don Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Objects Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, such beliefs, as the mysterious planet Nibiru, believed to be the hidden "12th planet" of the solar sytem that swings by Earth every 3,600 years and causes widespread damage, are absurd.
Nibiru is called the 12th planet, but not by NASA – it was first mentioned in a book called The 12th Planet written in 1976 by Zechariah Sitchin, which tells of the ancient Sumerian legends of a planet with a comet-like orbit that comes into the Earth's area of the solar system every 3,600 years.
Yeomans insists that there is no evidence whatsoever for the validity of such claims.
David Morrison, a planetary astronomer at NASA Ames Research Center and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, explained that he receives five emails a day about the potential of Nibiru striking Earth, and claimed there are over two million websites that are concentrated on the theory – a number that is only likely to grow in 2012.
Morrison discussed a message he received from a woman in Denmark who wrote: "Mother of one daughter and another coming. Yesterday I was considering killing myself, the baby in my stomach and my beloved two-year-old daughter before December 2012 for fear of having to experience the Earth's destruction."
A 13-year-old American reportedly wrote: "I am considering suicide. I am scared to tears . . . I don't want to live any more, I deserve an explanation."
These fears are based in large part on a 5,125-year-old calendar by the Mayans, who are said to have been exceptionally gifted in astronomy. The calendar ends Dec. 21, 2012, and there has been a lot of discussion among researchers and the public about what this abrupt end actually means.
In the video Yeomans released last week, however, he explains that thousands of astronomers who scan the sky on a daily basis have not seen any evidence to warrant this kind of public concern.
"This enormous planet is supposed to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would have seen it long ago. And if it were invisible somehow, we would have seen the [gravitational] effects of this planet on neighboring planets," the scientist said.
He added that he does not believe the ending of the Mayan calendar has anything apocalyptic or significant about it – and compared it to the modern calendar ending on Dec. 31 of each year, but then starting again on Jan. 1.
Yeomans did address some doomsday theories that are at least based on factual events – such as a massive solar flare destroying the Earth's atmosphere. He explained that solar flares, or solar storms, occur at the end of an 11-year cycle for the sun, such as the ones that the Earth experienced last week, but they are not dangerous for human health – and there are no known storms that are projected to happen during December of this year.
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," he concluded, quoting astronomer Carl Sagan. "Since the beginning of time there have been literally hundreds of thousands of predictions for the end of the world, and we're still here."
Watch the video in which NASA scientist Don Yeomans debunks doomsday theories, such as Planet Nibiru and other end of the world hypotheses: