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No danger of 2012 impact - astronomer

26 July 2012, 10:39

 Cape Town - An astronomer has indicated that there is no danger from any known astronomical body that may impact the Earth this year.

Many believers in an end of world cataclysm interpret Mayan prophecy to mean that a huge comet or rogue planet will impact the Earth on 21 December 2012, causing worldwide devastation.

"It's not going to happen - I'm willing to bet all my life's savings on that," Dr Nicola Loaring outreach astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory told News24.

She said that interpretation of ancient prophecies does not match observed data from observatories and government agencies around the world.

"And the whole Mayan thing, as far as I'm aware, the calendar stops in 2012 and people have interpreted that. It could just be that they only decided to work up until 2012 because they figured they could do the rest of it later," she said.


Author Zecharia Sitchin in his book The 12th Planet proposed that a planet called Nibiru has an extremely elliptical orbit of 3 600 years was on course to collide with the Earth.

Many followers believe that the supposed impact will occur in December because of the interpretation of the Mayan calendar. End-of-the-world disasters are also common themes in pop culture and movies like The Day After Tomorrow reached blockbuster status.

Loaring said that detailed surveys of the sky revealed no objects that could cause mass devastation on Earth.

"There's no evidence whatsoever for any kind of huge big body that's going to impact us. We have Spaceguard which is like a whole load of different observatories and also they use satellites to survey the sky and try and find all the near Earth objects [NEOs] that could come close or possibly collide with the Earth."

On 23 July an object named 2011 CA7 with an estimated diameter of 5m came within 22 million kilometres of Earth but a bigger object named 2006 CF will pass at about six million kilometres on 27 July. It is about 480m in diameter.

The moon is about 384 000km from the Earth.

Agencies that study the orbits of NEOs usually assign a minimum probably to impact, but as more observations are conducted, the orbit is refined and the object is usually removed from the threat list.

"Sometimes, they'll start off saying something could possibly hit the Earth and a few weeks later they'll say: 'Oh no, it's going to miss,' said Loaring.

On the Torino Scale, Nasa complies a list of objects that may strike the Earth 500 years into the future and there is no danger of an imminent impact.


The scale uses a grading from 0 to 10 where "0" means no risk and "10" indicates a planet-wide catastrophe within a span of less than 100 years.

A large body that could cause an extinction event in December would be visible, even during the day time, by now, said Loaring.

"If there was an object that was huge and was something that could hit the Earth and cause it to change its orbit, we would have seen it - and we haven't.

"There's no need to worry and, you know, plan your Christmas."

- News24

Tags astronomy

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