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Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

21st December 2012. The day on which, if Hollywood and anyone with an interest in rumormongering has their way, the world will end. After the abortive “end of the world” in May 2003, a quick recount of the Mayan calendar resulted in 21 December being picked for a second go. The story goes that the planet Nibiru is headed this way to collide with the Earth. As poor as out asteroid spotting capabilities are (one zinged between us and the moon a few days ago, but was only spotted the week before), I suspect that something planet sized would have been noticed long ago.

However, a planet maybe just what we need. After all, if our one is going to the dogs, a new one seems like a good idea. Fortunately, the Kepler mission has provided plenty of data indicating planets in a “habitable zone” (ie not too close and not too far away from a star) may be nearby. A mere 12 light years in fact. Now 12 years may mean we should have started planning a while ago for the 21st December disaster, but you never know, we may get a stay of execution, a la 2003. In case you’re thinking of knocking up a light-speed starship overnight, the nearest potential planet appears to be around Tau Ceti (try going east to start with).

Michigan, however, isn’t going the starship route. Instead they’ve closed their schools a couple of days early. Quite how this is going to avert the end of the world, I don’t know, but I guess the kids are pretty happy about it.

So, what are you doing for the big day? Time off? Maxing out your library card? Or do you have an unlicensed nuclear reactor and warp drive starship ready in your living room?


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