End of the World Saturday May 21 2011?

July 20, 2017
Halley's Comet
NASA

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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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