End of the World Saturday May 21 2011?

Catherine Boeckmann

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Halley's Comet
NASA

Heard about the end of the world predictions for May 21, 2011? A U.S. radio preacher says Judgment Day is arriving at 6 P.M. Saturday.

As an editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac, I can tell you that this is not the first end-of the-world prediction made during our publication’s 219-year tenure, and the tradition goes back to the Romans and the ancients.

  • In 1910, many people thought that Halley’s Comet would obliterate the Earth. Halley’s Comet, which is only visible from Earth every 76 years (and will return in 2016), is a very bright celestial visitor and misguided theories have existed for many centuries—in 1456, it was viewed as agent of the devil!
  • Today, we receive calls and questions about planetary alignments that we mention in the Almanac Sky Watch; folks wonder about their significance. Now, the question of true planetary alignment is a topic for another day, but the Almanac archives show that close planetary configurations have occurred many times and none caused havoc on Earth.
  • Recently, some Almanac readers asked us if the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world on December 21, 2012. No. The Maya—who were incredibly skilled in astronomy—did not predict doomsday; their Mesoamerican Long Count calendar was simply based on long 5,125-year cycles.

You can probably tell me about other doomsday proclamations in human history. My musings are from an astronomical perspective. After all, an almanac is defined as a “calendar of the heavens.” If you recall other end-of-the-world events, please post below!

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i was in an airplane in 94

i was in an airplane in 94 during an eclipse may 10 '94. when i got back to earth you were all different. the world already ended for me i have nothing to fear.. its like that song the pretenders sang.. when i went back to ohio my city was gone way to go ohio. just kidding love you all. i am afraid the world would end and id miss it. whats worse?

brian

LA is safe and sound

In the City of Angeles, we constantly see the doomsday message. We don't even let the constant threat of earthquakes dim our sunshine. So, 2011 this year, 2012 next year and whatever is next doesn't come onto our radar. But, it won't stop us from selling t-shirts!

strange

I remember the Y2K scare too. I don't understand how people follow these fanatics--you can't scare me; this is not about religion but something else that's probably fear-based, as were most of these events through history. I enjoyed the historical context.

end of world

I remember Y2K. Some folks thought there would be total havoc and destruction.