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2012 Mayan Apocalypse Rumors Have Dark Side, NASA Warns

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Date: 28 November 2012 Time: 06:46 PM ET

“While this is a joke to some people and a mystery to others, there is a core of people who are truly concerned,” he said.

“I think it’s evil for people to propagate rumors on the Internet to frighten children,” (astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center) Morrison said.

NASA scientists took questions via social media in the hour-long video chat, debunking doomsday myths from the rogue planet Nibiru to the danger of killer solar flares.

Nor are any near-Earth objects, planetary or otherwise, threatening to slam into our planet on Dec. 21, said Don Yeomans, a planetary scientist who tracks near-Earth objects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The only close asteroid approach on the horizon is forecast to occur on Feb. 13, 2013, when an asteroid will pass within 4.5 Earth radii to our planet (for perspective, Earth’s radius is 3,963 miles, or 6,378 kilometers). The asteroid is not going to hit Earth, Yeomans said.

Other rumors – that the Earth’s magnetic field will suddenly reverse or that the planet will travel almost 30,000 light-years and fall into the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy – were also dismissed. (A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion km.)

One popular rumor that the planet will undergo a complete blackout from Dec. 23 to 25 earned a “What?” and blank looks from the panel of scientists.

Ultimately, concerns about Earth’s fate would be better focused on slow-acting problems such as climate change rather than some sort of cosmic catastrophe, said Andrew Fraknoi, an astronomer at Foothill College in California.

It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

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