(Photo: Reuters/Tomas Bravo)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration reassured concerned citizens on Wednesday that the long-rumored Mayan Apocalypse, which is the belief that life will come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012, has no basis in science and that there is no evidence there will be any cosmic danger on that day.
"There is no true issue here," David Morrison, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center, said during a NASA Google+ Hangout event on Wednesday. "This is just a manufactured fantasy."
The 21st of December, which also happens to mark the Winter Solstice, the day when the Sun will appear at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon, has long been believed by some to signify the end of the world, based on the Mayan calendar. The ancient civilization composed calendar cycles that encompassed hundreds of years, with the last cycle, the 13th one, ending on Dec. 21, 2012.
There has been much debate about what the end of this 13th cycle will mean, but no concrete evidence has ever been found to suggest that the Mayans were prophesying the end of life on Earth. This has not stopped many from worrying about what possible apocalyptic events on that day, with various theories about the end of the world predicting doomsday scenarios, such as a hidden planet from behind the Sun colliding into Earth.
NASA maintains an updated information page using science to debunk any and all rumors about cosmic collisions or upcoming natural disasters, although Morrison has said that he still receives many letters from people saying that they are so worried that they can't eat or sleep – and some are even considering suicide and killing pets in order to escape from the destruction they fear might come on Dec. 21.
"While this is a joke to some people and a mystery to others, there is a core of people who are truly concerned," the astrobiologist has said.
"I think it's evil for people to propagate rumors on the Internet to frighten children," he added.
NASA scientists have warned that the biggest threat to the Earth at this moment remains to be mankind itself, and the way humans treat the planet and neglect long-term issues such as climate change.
"The greatest threat to Earth in 2012, at the end of this year and in the future, is just from the human race itself," said Mitzi Adams, a heliophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Still, many will be looking with curiosity at what, if anything should happen on Dec. 21. The Mayans were impressive timekeepers, mathematics and astronomers far ahead of their time, and predicted cosmic events with remarkable accuracy without the use of modern day telescopes – and some believe the end of the 13th era on their calendar is likely to mark a significant event.