Some may start to stock up on the bottled water and duct tape as the Mayan Long Count Calendar allegedly marks the end of humanity a year from December 21st.
However NASA suggests the only real anxiety on December 21 this year will be what to get your in-laws for Christmas.
The Mayans, well known for their advanced mathematics and early discoveries in astronomy, developed a calendar comparable to the modern Gregorian calendar, with 365 days in a year. However, as well as measuring time in yearly units, the civilization also measured time in larger measures, just as modern society breaks time into centuries and millennia. Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of a Baktun, a 144,000-day cycle that has repeated 12 times since the Maya creation date.
Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told www.space.com/13885-world-2012-mayan-planet-nibiru-nasa.html space.com the hype surrounding the end of the long-count calendar is unwarranted.
"The short-count was 52 of our years, and the long-count was 5,125 years long. This long-count calendar is coming to an end on Dec. 21," Yeomans said. "Of course, a new calendar would start on Dec. 22. It would be like saying that our calendar ends Dec. 31, and that's the end of time, the end of days, that's it, no regard for how a new cycle would begin. The Maya never predicted the end of the world occurred at that time."
Yeomans also explained the fears that some have surrounding December 21 – solar storms, earth's magnetic poles flipping and a planetary alignment – would all have minimal effect on the earth. Yeomans said a solar storm can be predicted in advance, a planetary alignment would have an insignificant gravitational effect on the earth and the only annoyance caused by the poles flipping would be having to change our compasses from north to south.
"Scientists really have their work cut out for them," Yeomans said. "We really have to do a better job educating people about science."
One other fear many have about this date this year is the belief a planet known as "Nibiru" or "Planet X" is headed towards earth. UFO aficionado Nancy Leider has said she has been in contact with aliens from the planet and that it is hidden behind the sun. Yeomans explained the claims are unfounded as "it can't hide behind the sun forever, and we would've seen it years ago."
Despite the disclaimer, the www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/2-earth-size-planets-spotted-around-distant-star-a-boost-for-prospects-of-finding-alien-life/2011/12/20/gIQAZhNE7O_story.html Associated Press report of the recent findings of two Earth-sized planets orbiting a star outside the solar system suggests the possibility of finding life on another planet, a possibility that worries famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," Hawking said in a 2006 Discovery Channel series. "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."
Some however, choose not to worry about apocalyptic hype, and take the traditional view shared by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24: 36, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."