Is a 2012 doomsday comet coming straight at us?

2012: No Comet

Article Updated: 26 Apr , 2016

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[/caption]According to 2012 doomsday proponents, something big is out to get us. By “something big” I mean some uncontrollable cosmic entity (i.e. Planet X, Nibiru or a “killer” solar flare), and by “us” I mean the whole of planet Earth. Pinning 2012 doomsday scenarios on the end of the ancient Mayan “Long Count” calendar appears to be growing momentum amongst authors, websites, documentaries and (my personal favourite) YouTube videos. According to them, something bad is going to happen on or around December 21st 2012. Probably the most interesting difference between the 2012 doomsday scenario and the doomsday prophecies of the past is that almost every possible (and impossible… or implausible) harbinger of doom is being suggested as a planet killer.

So, in this sixth article addressing another astronomical doomsday scenario, I will look at the theory that there is a comet currently out there in deep space, slowly making its final approach on its parabolic orbit toward Earth. But before you get worried, you’ll be glad to hear that the 2012 cometary impact theory is as watertight as a teabag; there is no object observed out there and there is certainly no evidence to suggest there could be a comet impact in 2012… and here’s why

Marketing Doomsday
In four years today (2012 21-December), the world will be coming to an end according to a few misguided individuals. Doomsayers always begin their arguments using an ancient calendar (plus a heavy dose of Bible Codes, I Ching and ancient Sumerian cuneiform scriptures) to support their new and inventive way the world may end. Alas, most doomsday theories are based on over-hyped scientific misinterpretation and outright lies. Usually there is a book to sell or website to promote. After all, there is nothing more profitable than fear.

Interestingly, I started writing for the Universe Today a year ago today, exactly five years before the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Don’t go reading too much into this little fact, pure coincidence, but I think it would be fitting to write the sixth in my series of 2012 articles exposing the myths surrounding this date.

You’ve probably seen the prolific ads for the “2012 Comet” across a range of websites, so I decided to delve into this particular theory to see if there is any truth behind the claims that a comet (or “comet planet”) is approaching Earth on a collision course. To cut a long story short, I can categorically say that no cometary impact is imminent. Any accusations of government cover-ups are to hide the poor science doomsayers are citing (much like the Planet X/Nibiru connection). If you want the long story, read on…

The Comet Threat

NASA's Deep Impact probe hits Comet Tempel 1 (NASA)

NASA's Deep Impact probe hits Comet Tempel 1 (NASA)

Before we look at the claims behind this doomsday scenario, we must first study Earth’s risk of actually being hit by a comet. We know we’ve been hit by comets in the past, and we will most definitely be hit by more in the future, but the coast is clear for at least a few decades from a marauding comet or asteroid. In fact, meteoroids in the form of chunks of rock are far more numerous than icy comets, and we are hit by several sizeable rocky meteoroids throughout the year (take 2008 TC3, the first predicted meteoroid atmospheric impact, for example).

Although rare, planetary impacts by comets do happen. As Shoemaker-Levy 9 showed us in 1994 when 2km-wide fragments of the comet bombarded the Jovian atmosphere, we mustn’t be complacent when considering a large impact event by comets or asteroids. The dazzling light show by Shoemaker-Levy 9 actually stimulated efforts to increase sky surveys for a possibly catastrophic impact event. Although a vast number of near-Earth objects (NEOs) have been identified, a very small number are considered to be a risk.

Fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on approach to Jupiter (NASA/HST)

Fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9 (NASA/HST)

The 270 meter-wide asteroid 99942 Apophis caused a stir in 2006 when it became the highest ranking asteroid on the Torino impact hazard scale. Apophis is now expected to glide safely past the Earth in 2029, but depending on the gravitational deflection caused by Earth in 2029, Apophis could pass through a gravitational “keyhole”, creating another impact possibility on April 13th, 2036. Still, the odds are not worth betting on; would you put money on a 1 in 45,000 chance of an Apophis 2036 impact?

There are other lumps of rock out there, but most are benign, and certainly not a threat to everyday life in 2012. However, we must be aware that asteroids are a very real future threat to humanity. As a result of this increased awareness, other NEOs have been discovered and tracked. Objects such as 2007 VK184, a 130 meter-wide asteroid may cause problems in the distant future, but the probability of impact is still extremely low. Astronomers from the Catalina Sky Survey estimate a few possible impact dates for 2007 VK184, but the odds never exceed a 0.037% chance of hitting Earth in the next 100 years. Other asteroids are currently being tracked and they may cause some concern over a century from now (although none surpass a Torino scale of Level 1, and if they do, all tend to fall back to the “normal” Level 0).

In short, the skies are clear from any imminent (certainly within the next 4 years) impact from an asteroid. Comets do not feature as a significant risk either. There is no astronomical evidence supporting otherwise.

This doesn’t stop organizations such as ex-NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart’s B612 Foundation from planning for possible future asteroid/comet threats. While Hollywood movies would have us believe blowing a comet up with a nuclear bomb will be a very good idea, the B612 Foundation disagrees. In fact, it could be a very bad idea. The key thing to remember when reading about NEO surveys or asteroid/comet deflection techniques is that we need a lot of lead time to stand any hope of deflecting a possible catastrophic impact event. This does not indicate a concern in the near future, it is simply a prudent precaution to safeguard the distant future of our planet.

The 2012 Comet-Google Conspiracy

The evidence for a comet... or Planet X... whichever. The void in Google Sky, are they hiding something? (Google)

The evidence for a comet... or Planet X... whichever. The void in Google Sky, are they hiding something? (Google)

So, it looks like we are safe from any astronomical impact. That’s not to say we won’t be hit by a small meteoroid, large fireballs occur regularly (remember the November 21st Canada bolide, and the most recent December 6th Colorado fireball, the largest of which was possibly caused by a 10-tonne rocky meteoroid). Also, this is not to say we won’t discover more NEOs within the next four years (we could spot a threatening object tomorrow for all we know), but the point is that there is absolutely no evidence for any civilization-ending comet impact in 2012. Any claims to the contrary are completely false.

So why are we seeing ads touting the “2012 Comet” theory? As far as I can tell, it is based on one very flimsy piece of evidence. So, lets load up Google Earth to see where the problem is…

If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you have the ability to look “up” rather than just down at the Earth’s surface. Switching the software to the night sky allows you to see the constellations and will guide you and a dazzling tour of the observable Universe. Despite this overload of information, is Google hiding something? Is the huge search-engine based company actively trying to hide observations of a comet from us?

Using Google Earth data for optical, infrared (IRAS) and microwave (WMAP) surveys (Google)

Using Google Earth data for optical, infrared (IRAS) and microwave (WMAP) surveys (Google)

Guide Google Earth to RA:5h 54m 00s, Dec: -6° 00′ 00″ and zoom in. If you don’t have Google Earth, this region can also be found in the online version of Google Sky. You’ll see an ominous rectangular void (a.k.a. the “Google Anomaly” in the images above) right next to the Orion Nebula, south of Orion’s Belt.

Note: The Constellation of Orion and therefore the “Google Anomaly” is in a very conspicuous location of the night sky, observable from northern and southern hemispheres.

This void is only apparent in the optical data; if you switch the data set to the microwave survey carried out by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), you’ll find the void is replaced by data. Also, infrared data covers the region pretty nicely.

Note: This infrared view of the sky was observed by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS).

So, the theory is that Google is hiding observations of an incoming comet. But there is an added twist to the comet conspiracy theory; the comet is also referred to as a “comet planet” and therefore a Planet X candidate (but I thought Planet X was a brown dwarf candidate?). Yes, Planet X seems to be at the root of all doomsday scenarios.

I’ll try to make this as quick as possible:

1) IRAS Data

A popular image on Planet X websites. Is this Planet X, or is it simply a young galaxy? (NASA - possible source)

A popular image on Planet X websites. Is this Planet X, or is it simply a young galaxy? (NASA - possible source)

The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) was an orbiting telescope that lasted for 10 months in 1983. It performed an infrared survey of the entire sky, churning up some fantastic observations of ultra-luminous young galaxies and intergalactic “cirrus”. However, before these objects were formally identified, the media (in particular the Washington Post) hinted heavily that some of these objects could be the fabled “Planet X” in the outskirts of our Solar System. This is one of the key theories doomsayers cite as fact that Planet X exists. Using dubious logic, several authors claim these early observations prove that Planet X is in fact the Sumerian planet “Nibiru”. Nibiru is therefore a brown dwarf. In this theory, death and destruction quickly follows, including the appearance of an alien race called the Annunaki (our alien ancestors) who want their planet back. Wonderful science fiction, with no roots in science fact.

So, is this “2012 comet” actually Planet X? If it is (disregarding the obvious fact that a comet is not a planet, let alone a brown dwarf), why is the Google Anomaly only a void patch in optical data? If Google and NASA were trying to hide evidence of a “comet” (by removing a region of optical data), surely they’d remove the IRAS data too? In any case, the IRAS data shows no object within the anomaly. Besides, why would Google leave a very obvious patch of missing optical data, when they could have just airbrushed the object from the dataset?

In conclusion, the Google Anomaly is in fact missing data, pure and simple. There’s no comet there, and simply because there is missing data does not prove the existence of anything sinister.

2) Just Look Up
Just in case you needed a little more convincing that the 2012 comet/Planet X theory was complete bunkum, think about the location of this proposed comet. The Google Anomaly is in full view for most of the planet throughout the year as it is in the constellation of Orion, right in the neighbourhood of some of the most famous, and well-studied stars and nebulae (the Horsehead Nebula and the Great Orion Nebula for example). If anyone looks at the Google Anomaly with suspicion, why not look straight up and see for yourself? Amateur astronomers have access to very advanced optics, so I think that if there was a suspect “comet planet” in the region, it would have been spotted by now (without Google’s help).

In Conclusion
The truth is that the Planet X conspiracy theory is wrong, but the 2012 comet theory is even worse. The chances of a large planet swinging through the inner solar system in 2012 has the same odds as a comet impact on that date: nil.

We cannot predict the future, and no ancient prophecy will prove the existence of a modern astronomical “end of the world” scenario. I am sure 2012 will be a significant year for spiritual and religious reasons, I’m not debating that. However, for doomsayers to use modern science to prove their inaccurate doomsday creations for personal gain is not only irresponsible, it can be very damaging.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Michael Paine
Guest
December 21, 2008 11:04 PM

Some very good points Ian and I agree with you totally.

Note, however, that “Spaceguard” is primarily intended to find Near Earth Asteroids (ie rocks orbiting inside Jupiters’s orbit). By accident, it and other telescope surveys systems sometimes find comets heading sunward from the outer solar system. The giant (40 kilometre) Hale-Bopp comet of 1997 is a good example. The chances of a comet collision with Earth are extremely small but it is not impossible. A collision within 4 years is even possible as there could be less than a year’s warning with some comet orbits. But I wouldn’t lose any sleep (or part with any money) over that possibility.

More at
http://users.tpg.com.au/horsts/spacegd.html

gwhitton
Member
gwhitton
December 21, 2008 11:47 PM

If anything kills you Earthlings in 2012 it will be your own stupidity.

edunuke
Guest
edunuke
December 21, 2008 11:49 PM

very entertaining article.
great job.

BlueAmberol
Member
BlueAmberol
December 22, 2008 12:42 AM

One can profit from this. Just bet on our destruction in 2012. Bet that we will be destroyed. If we are, you will lose but if that happens, who cares?
A more likely cause of trouble is our overpopulation.

Ron
Guest
Ron
December 22, 2008 1:35 AM

So where were the predictions of that astroid that hit Canada? I don’t recall anyone knowing about that before hand..

Amit
Guest
Amit
December 22, 2008 4:01 AM

Ian,

What about the computer model developed by Patryk Lykawka of Kobe University in Japan and his colleague Tadashi Mukai.

The Kuiper Belt contains many peculiar features that can’t be explained by standard solar system models. One is the highly irregular orbits of some of the belt’s members
According to the model, Sedna and other Kuiper Belt oddities could be explained by a world 30 to 70 percent as massive as Earth orbiting between 100 AU and 200 AU from the sun.
It explains the Kuiper Cliff as well..

Do you have any arguments against this?

Shaula Brandt
Member
Shaula Brandt
December 22, 2008 4:46 AM

I have coined my own phrase about all these doomsday and 2012 folks…

‘They tell you they are the prophets, but all they want are the profits.’

I find their ‘doomsday’ theories have more holes in them than Swiss cheese.

David R.
Member
David R.
December 22, 2008 4:48 AM

Enjoyed the article, Ian. Another conspiracy theory successfully vaporized.

The main issue lurking behind such theories is human mortality. In my line of work, that is by far the most common problem that I (and most of my colleagues) address on a regular basis. Apparently conspiracy theories offer some kind of artificial BS in an attempt to avoid the inevitable conclusion. With another conspiracy theory stripped away, I have more potential “clients.” Thanks for the extra business!

damian
Member
December 22, 2008 5:04 AM
I for one will welcome our new Annunaki Overlords. Being able to fly a planet like a spaceship should make for some interesting study and observation. I read somewhere that the (same) people keep cropping up over the years feeding the doomsday cult. (last one was the world ending millenium bug) Incidentally you will be hard pressed to find images of Hell painted in Churches throughout the Christian world preceding the 1900’s. Why? Because the church relied on the (millenium) Armageddon (scaremongering) before that. When no cataclismic event occured they turned to other forms of fear mongering. (and a lot of artist got to express themselves, so its not all bad) Its interesting that the human Psyche is… Read more »
Paul Smith
Guest
December 22, 2008 6:59 AM

Honestly, the Google Anomaly? Just take a look in Worldwide Telescope and look through the couple of dozen sky surveys in that to see absolutely nothing unusual about this part of space – other than it being part of Bernard’s Loop (not a planet).

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
December 22, 2008 7:07 AM

The Mayan calender ending in 2012 doesn’t predict the end of the world, just the end of the current era. Whatever may happen then may or may NOT even be noticed….say a significant birth or a turning point. Being an optimist, I think 2012 will not mark an end, but a beginning. Every generation believes itself to be the pinnacle of intelligence. We have just begun to scratch the surface of obtainable knowledge, so who knows what wonders lie in our future.

uncledan
Member
uncledan
December 22, 2008 7:16 AM

ROFL The “Consiracy theery’, as you [email protected] like to call it is not ‘vaporized’ by your so-called science! The Komet is going to destroy Eerth. All the proof you need is on the interwebs. Lissen to Art bell and Ron Paul – there all the pruf you need!!

Olaf
Member
Olaf
December 22, 2008 7:58 AM

“What about the computer model developed by Patryk Lykawka of Kobe University in Japan and his colleague Tadashi Mukai.”

As you have noted, this theoretical planet stay waaay outside the solar system!

And it is even not related to Nibiru, it is just a theoretical planet.

Aodhhan
Member
Aodhhan
December 22, 2008 8:03 AM
Of course, I see it and read it on the Internet, so it must be true! Along with so called experts who have absolutely no substantial proof. BTW, I have a Girl Scout calendar which runs out in a little more than a week…. think I have something to worry about? I wish there was proof of bodies in the KB which are near earth size. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything yet. If there was something this large on a collision course with Earth in the next several years, we would be able to see it by now, and definitely its affect on surroundings. Something that large and moving that fast wouldn’t be a difficult spot. For those who… Read more »
Spoodle58
Member
December 22, 2008 8:12 AM

Ian O’Neill, I love you. smile
In an intellectual way may I add.

Can’t wait to read the I told you so article in January 2013.

RetardedFishFrog
Guest
RetardedFishFrog
December 22, 2008 8:14 AM

I have a friend who knows Orion. She says he’s a modest guy and that he had to email Google and ask them to obscure the area south of his belt.

Dark Gnat
Member
Dark Gnat
December 22, 2008 8:32 AM

2012 is an election year. That should be our biggest concern.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
December 22, 2008 8:49 AM

“All the proof you need is on the interwebs. Lissen to Art bell and Ron Paul – there all the pruf you need!!”

What has Ron paul to do with 2012?
What has Art bell to do with 2012?

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