2012 is upon us, and whether or not you believe the world is doomed and we should all be crowding into our underground bunkers, there’s a lot of interesting stuff set to happen. So put on your Hazmat suits and grab your flashlights, because here’s what we have to look forward to.
5. 433 Eros
What fun is the end of the world without a possible asteroid collision? Well, it’s true that Eros won’t be making contact with Earth, but it is the “second largest Near Earth Object on record.”
It will fly by on January 31, 2012, and won’t be making another appearance until 2056.
(For the record, just because Eros won’t be hitting us this time, that doesn’t mean it won’t drop in at a later date).
Venus will pass between Earth and the Sun for the final time this century in early June, 2012.
This typically happens twice every 100 years, with the last transit of Venus being in 2004.
Thankfully, the transit poses no threat whatsoever, but this is your last chance to see the small speck that is Venus as it crosses over the Sun until December, 2117.
3. Pleiades & Sequoia
No, that’s not the name of a new hit television series airing next Fall on NBC. Instead, they’re the names of two supercomputers which will become fully armed and operational next year, reaching unseen peaks of computing power.
Pleiades is already operating, actually, but it isn’t expected to reach full power until next year.
Sequoia, meanwhile, is the one we should really be watching.
It will be more powerful than the world’s top 500 supercomputers combined, and will be used for “nuclear simulations,” as well as “astronomy, energy, studying of the human genome, and climate change.”
No word yet on when it will become self-aware and evaporate everyone.
2. Maya Civilization
We all know what causes the greatest concern when it comes to 2012: The Mayans and their calendar.
December 21, 2012 will mark the end of a “great cycle” of “thirteen b’ak’tuns.”
There are many interpretations of what this means, and some believe it is a sign of either the end of the world or the entrance into an enlightened age of humanity (perhaps similar to the “technological singularity” alluded to by science-fiction author Vernor Vinge).
Regardless, there’s no way of preventing December 21, 2012 from happening, so we’ll just have to find out when we get there.
1. The Sun
The destruction of life on Earth is very likely to one day occur at the hands of the cosmos, by powers we, as human beings, simply cannot contend with. One of those powers is, of course, the yellow star at the center of our solar system.
Solar Cycle 24 began in January 2008, and our sun’s activity has steadily increased ever since.
This “activity” comes in the form of repeated blasts of solar energy — called solar flares — that, were they to hit Earth at just the right angle, could do untold amounts of damage to our technological infrastructure and, of course, us.
Next year, the Sun will likely reach its solar maximum.
While these cycles occur about every 11 years, many worry that the solar maximum of this cycle will be particularly violent, and many others believe that the increased solar activity we’re likely to see in 2012 is directly related to the “predictions” set forth by the Mayan calendar.
Of course, 2012 could be just like any other year. The sun might reach its solar maximum, then peacefully wind down as the cycle completes itself. The Mayan calendar could turn out to be just that — a calendar — and not the beating drum of an end times prophecy.
Or perhaps there is no such thing as coincidence.