Will Elenin affect Earth?
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 19, 2011
There are many scientists who are confident that the Moon, which is between a third and a quarter the size of Earth, has little or no gravitational pull capable of influencing earthquakes. Yet these same respected academics think a tiny faraway cold dust-ball, 90 times the distance of the Moon from us and a thousandth of the Moon's size will cause earthquake activity to increase. So what are they talking about? What is Elenin? Does it pose a threat to Earth?
When Elenin was first detected on Dec. 10, 2010, it was more than 400 million miles from Earth, which is about four and a half times further away than the Sun. Like all comets Elenin is part of the reservoir of space dust, larger rocks, comets and asteroids that make up fragments that form the huge reservoir of slowly orbiting debris left over from the formation of our solar system four billion years ago. Most comets are far too small to have a measurable influence on anything. Some do enter our atmosphere, but they usually burn up from friction with molecules of air and by the time they hit the ground are reduced to tennis ball sized lumps and smaller, if they reach ground at all, for most fall in the ocean. Elenin is no exception, it is an ordinary comet with a head made of dirt and ice. Elenin is more likely to be a cloud of gas than a solid. Many new comets are discovered each year, and most either go unnoticed or are ignored. Elenin has now broken up or is still disintegrating, which is not convenient if it plans on destroying us. It has even been suggested that the comet has broken up because a spaceship is emerging from it.
Since its discovery, Elenin has closed its distance to Earth as it also makes its way closer to its closest point to the Sun. This little zoomer should be at its brightest shortly before the time of its closest approach to Earth on Oct. 16, 2011. But even at this closest point, it will still be 22 million miles from us, or 90 times the distance of the Moon. Comets are small, and this one is reported to be only about 2-3 miles (3-5 kilometers) across, which is about half as big as Auckland's Rangototo Island (you could run the whole length of it and back again in less than an hour), while the Sun is roughly 850,000 miles (over a million kilometers) across. Even if Elenin could cross the sun - which it can’t, such a small object can't possibly block the Sun, which is too immense. These relative sizes are often not spelled out. If you could put the earth and the Sun side by side, it would look like a peppercorn next to an exercise ball. One million earths could fit into the Sun. On that scale Elenin would be invisible to the naked eye. So forget it, such a tiny thing will never block the Sun.
Here's another angle. When the Moon gets between the Earth and the Sun it is called an Eclipse. The Moon is about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) in diameter, and has the same apparent size as the Sun when the Moon is about 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers) away — roughly 100 times its own diameter. The Moon never appears bigger than the Sun to the human eye, no matter where on earth you stand and view it. If you have seen pictures that suggest something else, the pictures are faked or it is an illusion. For a comet with a diameter of a couple of miles to shield the Sun from Earth, this comet would have to be within 250 miles (400 kilometers) of us, which is roughly the orbital altitude of the International Space Station. Yet Elenin will never come closer than 22 million miles away in this orbit, and it won't be back in our neiighborhood of space for a few thousand years. Suggestions that Elenin could shift tides or tectonic plates is not really possible when it is so far from us. Even the Sun doesn't do much to the tides, as the Moon has two and a half times the gravitational pull of the Sun.
If Elenin has any effect at all it will be on booksales about it and other doomsday products. Doomsday fiction has come about because of uncertainty, and has increased over the past 12 months because the Moon has come the closest distance to Earth in 19 years, bringing an abnormal amount of earthquake activity around the globe. This period will pass, as it has done before now, and before that and before that but people have short memories. Rather than sweat trying to remember 19 years in the past, it is far easier to dream up new images of doom and destruction for the future, because our imagination is more powerful and more malleable than our memory. Let's face it - even 19 days back is difficult. Do you remember what you were wearing 19 days ago, or what the weather was? How about 19 minutes - what exactly were you doing?
A mysterious "second sun" has also appeared over the past few days in the northern hemisphere, and the expected chicken-licken shrieking has followed, with some claiming proof of alien visitation, the arrival of the Armaggeddon Star to destroy us because we have all been wicked, etc, all without further and closer investigation. The whitish ball is sometimes on the right of the sun, sometimes on the left, and at times has appeared on left and right of the sun simultaneously. This is odd behaviour for a celestial being, that is, to appear, disappear, reappear in duplicate and vanish completely from some viewing areas and not from others. Is this some celestial tease? Are planets playful, even evil ones? Remarkably it seems they have the ability to dance with the clouds, hide in shadows, and even choose who they wish to be viewed by. Or is it simply an atmospheric effect? The most likely explanation is that the mirage is a result of industry pollution and atmospheric refraction. This mirage is not visible from the southern hemisphere. Yet if it was a second sun it would be visible from all points on earth. That it isn't should lead any reader to conclude that the effect is fairly local to the northern hemisphere and mostly northern Europe. Moreover this object seen from the USA is a different shape to that seen over Norway. So do we have a family of these? If it is one only then why does it change? It is atmospheric, as the sun itself assumes different appearances when viewed through different parts of the atmosphere. You can get the same effect when you see reflections of lights around the rim of your glases, where the glass is thicker or curved. With the volume of penal speculation re 2012 the effect has gathered an eerie sinisterism. But all unexplained celestial phenomena don't automatically have to be something cataclysmic. Before eclipses were explained these too were viewed as threats of punishments and there were calls for penance. Churches, always looking for yet another bleeding statue, once milked eclipses to the hilt, and there is a history of institutionalised fearmongering that employed astronomy and physics whilst suppressing natural explanation. Typing "second sun" into Google turns up far more alarmist conspiracy results than science-based explanations. Let the reader decide.
The Tills they are a-Ching-ling
In any age there is a tendency to think in terms of the contemporary technology. These days it is along the lines of missiles, heat-seeking lasers and smart bombs, Playstation and Star Wars, and anything anywhere moving with fire or with a visible tail is thought of as hell-bent on destruction, either natural or manipulated. If it is the latter then we immediately suspect an Axis-of-evil type empire. Hollywood has replaced good science and politics has hijacked research funding, so most new technology is developed primarily for the military. Security and war-games are separated by dubious lines when governments justify invading nations (which have oil) in the guise of looking for “weapons of mass destruction”. We are exposed to reports and allegations of HAARP, Weather Modification, 2012 Mayan prophecy, chemtrails, Nibiru, PlanetX, Elenin, and Dwarf Star. When evidence is called for any of these, it is slow in coming if at all. Rather, those asking are attacked as being stirrers. Government funded agencies of doom have ridden the waves of global warming and so-called climate change, and of Al Gore-ism and Green politics that dictate that unless we live pure recycled sustainably-energised lives, the planet will self-destruct, something our grandchildren will not thank us for. Each time our collective memories fail us, because each seems a new scare, each worse than the last, and each needing money to appease, and lots of it. Yet we still have new the scares, new taxes, and still no evidence that humans are to blame for any natural events. Pollution and any human behaviour has nothing to do with weather or climate.
The year 2012 is already being touted as the beginning of The End. Books and movies are flooding the market, aided and promoted by the internet and particularly social marketing, and the disaster movie "2012" is gearing up to break new records for its spectacle, with new special effect footage of cracking continents, plunging asteroids, burning cities, and a tsunami throwing an aircraft carrier through the White House. The movie's ominous slogan is "Find out the truth." And it is not the only production in the works. Anyone who listens to talkback radio or who surfs the internet knows why catastrophies are a growth industry. People have nothing better to do than sit and fret. The ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala kept a 26,000-yr calendar that is about to come to an end point, heralding the end of a particular calendar, and culminating in an alignment within the solar system of the cosmos and the Celestial Centre, which is in the heart of the Milky Way, and according to some which will turn Earth into a bowling pin for a rogue planet heading down our alley for a strike. Just exactly which planet this will be has not been identified or photographed, nor the date, nor even where on the globe it will strike. For all our astronomical and computer prowess which has brilliantly put 12 men safely on the Moon and brought them safely back and developed GPS technology that can get you to execute, at 50kmh, a left turn within a few metres, it still seems NASA either will not or cannot work out what is heading this way.
For Christians it sounds like a cheap betrayal of our cosmic security, for we read in the Bible and have believed for 2000 years that God loves us enough to protect us from everything, even elimination. Enlightened scholars have offered an explanation, reminding us that God is a Teacher and even now we can save ourselves, the planet, the cosmos and all of life from certain ultimate destruction if we would only wake up and mend our ways. Basically it all boils down again to money. There are books to buy and courses to attend. There are new diets to try, movements to join, churches to donate to, new and improved (and more expensive) foods to religiously swear by, or equally religiously avoid. There is no shortage of leaders, gurus, trainers, governments, and would-be influencers, and these are mostly product-wielding entrepreneurs wishing to direct what you and I should do or think. Planet or product? Is this not a consumer society?
It is likely that no scary news is true. Modern astronomy and Maya secrets are not conspiring to bring our doom. The Population Explosion did not happen, neither did Acid Rain. Many are still waiting for Sars, the Flu Epidemic and Mad Cow Disease. We have trouble separating science fiction from science, because we are more interested in fiction than fact. Our love of stories allows us to be easily spooked. We"ve had similar scares in the recent past. Eleven years ago the world got worked up over a different date; the Millennium of Jan. 1, 2000. The Y2K bug was a flop. Elevators did not freeze, airliners did not crash. PC counters just rolled over and started again. The US dollar was the world standard, and banks printed extra money in the mistaken belief that there would be a rush on savings and deposits in the last days of 1999 which would gridlock the banking system, assuming computers were still able to process the transactions. But there was not any banking crisis, no meltdown, other than that created through reckless lending practices by financial institutions. Banks simply had to get rid of all the money they had shored up. This they did by creating mortgage deposits for people to purchase properties but who later could not afford the payments, creating a financial disaster less than a decade later. This was exacerbated by the sharp increase in oil and food prices brought about by rabid environmentalism that forced up taxes and hijacked governments with green policies in return for block voting. It was a situation no western government, either left or right wing, could afford to pass up if they wanted to retain power. In the US, as of December 24, 2008, the Federal Reserve had used its independent authority to spend $1.2 trillion on purchasing various financial assets and making emergency loans to address the financial crisis, above and beyond the $700 billion authorized by Congress from the federal budget. This included emergency loans to banks, credit card companies, and general businesses, temporary swaps of treasury bills for mortgage-backed securities, the sale of Bear Stearns, and the bailouts of American International Group (AIG), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Citigroup. To protect itself from the international fallout, China took over much of the international debt.
Nostradamus was the 16th-century French astrologer who published lunar almanacs. Continually scrutinised by a jealous Church which thought humans making predictions were heresy (because they were outside of God's Will, the Hand of God and God's Works), he had to explain that everything came to him in dreams and visions. In reality he observed lunar and planetary cycles and projected forwards based on historical analysis, but he was only writing for his times. In their efforts to suppress him the Establishment caused Nostradamus to vaguefy his writings, which ironically gave them a lasting church-denting credibility. Borrowing a prediction from Nostradamus' writings because it seemed like a good repeat fit, author Charles Berlitz predicted catastrophe in his 1981 book "Doomsday 1999", warning that 1999 could inflict flood, famine, pollution and a shift of Earth's magnetic poles. He also pointed out the planetary alignment of May 5, 2000, and said it could bring solar flares, severe earthquakes, land changes and seismic explosions.
In the 1990s an entire Earth Changes movement swelled into being as the end of the century neared, with all sorts of Millennial expectations -- earthquakes, plagues, polar axis shifts, continents sliding into the sea, Atlantis rising and more. In England, the Sun tabloid predicted a "marvelous millennium of joy, peace, prosperity." Crop circles appeared from nowhere, said to be the work of aliens sent here to warn humans of impending disasters and afterwards a time of Enlightenment and Clearing of Souls. Weird lights were reportedly seen dancing above stone circles. Many reported alien visitations, contact with ET figures under hypnosis and even physical abuse. It was strange these humanoids only appeared in one country, and even mainly in one region, and when a dedicated group of university students made a documentary about how they faked crop circles with ropes and planks pressed onto the wheat under the cover of darkness they were not given air time by embarrassed news networks, and so their protestations were not taken seriously. Even to this day there are claims of abductions at or near crop circles by little green men with almond-shaped eyes, apparently with a weakness for junk food because in one area hot pies regularly went missing from the windowsills of the nearby bakery.
When Jan. 1, 2000, came and went with nothing worse than ski-lift passes printing the date as 1900, the focus of doomsday scares shifted forward 5 months to 5 May 2000. Believers in the power of planetary alignments conveniently forgot earlier failures. The "Jupiter Effect" cataclysm predicted for March 10, 1982 (from the 1974 book by John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann) never materialized. These two men were not astrologers, who are usually blamed, but scientists, both holding Ph.D.'s in astronomy from the University of Cambridge. This alignment of planets was going to create a number of catastrophes, including a great earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, on March 10, 1982. It did not occur. In fact there had been an even closer alignment in the year 1128 without any incident. March 10 1982 was even a full moon, crossing the equator heading south, and midway between perigee and apogee, but the perigee it proceeded was the 11th closest for the year, not really packing much punch. Also, 1982 was a year that solar activity was winding down towards a mimimum. But the alignment by itself commandered no influence. Nor will alignments alone ever bring a destruction on earth. On the other hand the Moon and Sun can bring about huge destruction without help from an alignment of planets.
On Dec. 21, 2012 the Maya calendar will turn to a new page. In Maya calendrics it's the end of a cycle of time, called a baktun. A baktun is 144,000 days: a little more than 394 years. Scholars have deciphered how the Maya calendar worked from historical texts and ancient inscriptions, and they have accurately correlated so-called Maya Long Count dates with equivalent dates in our calendar. Just as we number our years counting from a historically and culturally significant event (presumed birth year of Christ), Maya times also numbered from a date of religious and cosmic significance: the creation date of the present world order. Astronomy is one thing, but when mystic philosophers get in on the act they rope in greater hordes of believers. In 1987 artist-philosopher José Argüelles linked the 13-baktun period with a "beam" from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, claiming the Maya knew when we entered this beam and when we would leave it, and set their 13-baktun cycle to mark our passage through it. This beam apparently operates as "invisible galactic life threads" that link people, the planet, the Sun, and the center of the Galaxy, a principle called "harmonic resonance." Argüelles also concluded that the planets are "orbiting harmonic gyroscopes" that “play a role in the coordination of the beam," which advances the development of anything with DNA. There is no record of any of this in Maya culture. In 1987 Argüelles and his followers predicted, with worldwide fanfare, that Aug. 16–17 of that year would bring a Maya-Galactic "Harmonic Convergence." That turned into a global phenomenon, with thousands gathering at Earth’s “acupuncture points” to create a "synchronized and unified bio-electromagnetic collective battery." Unfortunately, the date passed with nothing more than colorful newspaper stories and a Doonesbury satire. (A character explains earnestly that that the alignment could bring either "mass unification of divine and earth-plane selves," or perhaps nuclear annihilation. "Either way there will probably be a crafts fair."
Unfortunately, astronomy cannot pinpoint such a "galactic alignment" to within a year, much less a day. When it comes to the galactic equator our mathematics runs ragged because any alignment depends on the arbitrary modern definition of the galactic equator, and/or the visual appearance of the Milky Way. Mathematics is the way humans try to make sense of the universe. But the universe has its own way of working, in ways humans will never discover because they are part of the process and cannot stand outside of it. It is like trying to study laughing whilst you are rolling about on the floor. There is no precise definition of the Milky Way's edges -- they are very vague and depend on the clarity of your view. (Jenkins says that he personally established the Milky Way’s edges by viewing it from 11,000 feet, far above anywhere the Maya lived.) So what did the Maya themselves think about "end" times? There is no evidence that they saw the calendar and/or a world age ending in either transcendence or catastrophe on December 21, 2012. In all of the Long Count texts discovered, transcribed, and translated, only one mentions the key date in 2012: Monument 6 at Tortuguero, a Maya site in the Mexican state of Tabasco. The text is damaged, but what remains does not imply the end of time.
There is no planet alignment on the winter solstice in 2012. Nor does there appear to be a reversal of Earth's magnetic field and unprecedented solar storms. Several threads of irrational thought have created an internet phantom, the secret planet Nibiru. It is said to be the bowling ball, and Earth is the pin. But there is no such planet, though it is often equated with Eris, a plutoid orbiting safely and permanently beyond Pluto. If it is, then it is on the Asteroid Belt on the edge of the solar system along with all the other junk. Some insist, however, that a NASA conspiracy is in play and that Nibiru, looming in on the approach, can already be seen in broad daylight from the Southern Hemisphere. People also report seeing the Virgin Mary in the clouds. Nibiru was supposed to become visible from the Northern Hemisphere, too, by last May, but it stood up those awaiting it. But there is much confusion. Many simply do not even know that the Sun changes its declination throughout the year, rising in the northeast in the Southern hemisphere winter and rising in the southeast in the Southern hemisphere summer. Neither do they know that the Moon changes declination by 13deg per day. These folk see the Moon considerably moved to a different rising or setting position after only a few days and assume the earth must have fallen off its axis.
But can we bear to contemplate a world without global warming, climate change, comets, armaggeddons and destructive alignments? What would the newspapers do if the people were not quaking in daily fear? Put some ants on a plate and put it in the fridge. Look again in a few minutes and they will have huddled together. When we are concerned or uncertain we humans also tend to huddle. That forms a crowd. Where there is a crowd there is always a dollar to be made. Elenin won't be the last, it's just the latest. Astronomers are constantly peering into the heavens to find something that will be given their name. Instead of worrying about a dying cloud of dust 22 million miles away, isn't a bigger concern the lack of recovery services that aren't yet coming a few meters away past the front door of damaged Christchurch homes?