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!
Catherine, our New Media Editor, joined The Old Farmer's Almanac in 2008. She edits content on both this Web site, Almanac.com, and the companion site to The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids publication, Almanac4kids.com. She also pens the Almanac Companion enewsletters and keeps up with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!