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The Actual Astronomy of 2012 in a Nutshell
An overview of the astronomy of 2012 and how it ties into the Maya calendar
An Essay by Thomas Razzeto
© Copyright 2009 by Thomas Razzeto
This essay is rated “medium” in terms of its astronomical information. An easier essay is Why the Maya Picked 2012 and a my most detailed astronomical essay is The Actual Astronomy of 2012. These three essays offer overlapping information and are each self-contained. I recommend that you start with Why the Maya Picked 2012 and if you want more astronomical information, you can move on to either of the other two essays, skipping the redundant information.
Preface: Why the Maya Picked 2012
Let's immediately get right to the point by taking a look at what will be in the sky over the Maya at midday on December 21, 2012. Here it is:
The sun will be in the middle of the dark rift, the Maya birth canal, on the solstice.
The sacred tree will be above the Maya with the sun exactly between Mars and Venus.
The astronomy that will unfold in the sky directly over the Maya on the winter solstice of 2012 is the key to understanding why the Maya restarted their calendar on that exact day. Almost all calendars are based on astronomy and it appears that this is also true for the Maya calendar, although in a rather spectacular way! In the above screenshot, we see that the sun will be in front of the dark rift, the Maya birth canal, on the day of the winter solstice. In just a few minutes, I will go over why this day can be said to contain the triple rebirth of the sun. (The background stars and the dark rift are very far away from the sun and will not block out its light.) We also see that there are four planets forming the horizontal crossbar of the sacred tree and the sun is virtually exactly in the middle of these planets. This is also quite significant as to why the Maya picked this exact day to restart their calendar.
We will be using the viewpoint of Izapa, Mexico, the birthplace of the Maya Long Count calendar. I think that it is crucial to investigate 2012 from the viewpoint of the Maya themselves but this point is often overlooked by other researchers. Yes, the actual location of the Maya on the surface of the earth is important when examining the astronomy and in addition to that, their cultural viewpoint is also very important. Both the calendar and the Maya's timeless metaphorical stories about transformation and rebirth have an astronomical basis to them and this is why understanding the astronomy can be so helpful.
While the above screenshot shows what is most important to the Maya, most 2012 researchers talk about something called the “galactic equator” rather than the dark rift. Because of this, I will develop this essay along the lines of understanding the shape of the galaxy, the plane of the galaxy and the galactic equator. Once you understand these things, it is very easy to shift your attention from the galactic equator to the dark rift, which is something that the Maya could actually see with the naked eye at certain times of the year.
As we will later find out, focusing on the galactic equator leads us to 1998; focusing on the dark rift leads us to 2012.
Do the following two facts pique your interest in 2012?
1) If the Maya intentionally pinpointed the exact day of the winter solstice in 2012 from over 2,000 years ago, they would have needed to know the length of the year to within 45 seconds! (Learn more here)
2) Five cycles of their Long Count calendar add up to the length of the earth's precessional cycle to within one percent and the Maya often talk about all five cycles!
As you may know, the Maya used several different calendars for business, social, scientific, and religious purposes. It is their Long Count calendar, which is over five thousand years long, that is restarting on December 21, 2012. I want to point out that many researchers say that the Long Count calendar ends on that date, rather than restarts on it. Yet after careful analysis, it is clear to me that that date marks the birth of a new calendar cycle. In other words, December 20, 2012 is the last day of the cycle that we are currently in and December 21, 2012 is the first day of the next cycle since the calendar is continuous and just starts again the next day.
So the Maya are linking that particular winter solstice with the start of a new calendar cycle. Since both the Maya calendar and their metaphorical stories are based on the underlying astronomy, it can be very helpful to learn about this astronomy and this is fun and fairly easy to do as long as we take it a little bit at a time. Even still, you may find yourself pondering this subject more deeply for quite awhile. For me personally, the more I dug into the actual astronomy of 2012, the more mind-blowing it all became! Perhaps you will have a similar experience.
It is helpful to note that in order to understand the astronomy of 2012, you only need to be concerned with the motion of the earth. This makes understanding the astronomy a lot easier than you might expect. The three motions of the earth that create the triple rebirth of the sun in 2012 are as follows: It spins on its axis once a day, it orbits the sun once a year and it slowly wobbles on its axis like a top that is not standing straight up once every 26,000 years. These three motions combine to create what I call “the sacred triple rebirth of the sun” and we will soon learn much more about this.
I also want to mention that all the astronomy that I present here is in complete agreement with mainstream science. I am not going to introduce or support any unproven theories. While I don't believe that today's mainstream science has all the answers for all subjects, when it comes to the astronomy of 2012, it looks to me like the truth is known.
And one of the strongest points that I want to make is that as far as mainstream astronomy goes, the earth is in no danger whatsoever. We are not going to fall into a black hole or be inundated with a high level of cosmic rays. The slow change of the angle of the axis of the earth with respect to the center of the galaxy will have no ill effects. As far as Mother Nature goes, it will be business as usual. The sun will continue to shine, the earth will continue to spin and the four seasons will continue to transform from one into another.
And yet the astronomy of 2012 is still quite remarkable. Let's get started by talking about our Milky Way galaxy.
Introduction to the Actual Astronomy of 2012 and Our Milky Way Galaxy
Now, let's get started by talking about our Milky Way galaxy. Imagine that you step outside one clear night and you see the stars that make up the brightest section of the Milky Way. As you know, this part of the sky is filled with so many stars that it looks like a bright cloudy area with many distinct stars shining here and there. Why does it appear like this?
Here we are looking towards the bright center region of our Milky Way galaxy.
The dark rift is easily visible. No telescope is needed to see this section of the
sky, which is roughly the size of your fist held at arms length.
It turns out that our Milky Way galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars and it's shaped like a huge, flat disk with spiral arms that spin around a bulge in the center. It's like a big pancake with a bump in the middle and our entire solar system is an extremely small dot that is in this pancake, just over half way out from the center.
Because we are in the pancake, it makes a ring that goes all the way around us. At any time of the year, given good viewing conditions, we can always see a section of the Milky Way. When we look towards the center of our galaxy, we are looking into the thickest part of the Milky Way and the event of 2012 is concerned with this section of the sky, the brightest section of the Milky Way. The bright bulge of light in this section of the sky was referred to by the Maya as the pregnant belly of the mother of creation and the dark rift was seen as the birth canal. The dark rift is caused by interstellar dust that blocks some of the light from this region of the sky. This dust is not in our atmosphere; it is scattered throughout deep space between us and the center of the galaxy. Some of the most important metaphorical stories of the Maya speak specifically about this section of the sky.
By the way, cultures all around the world throughout all of time have noticed that the Milky Way forms this ring that goes all the way around us. One of the oldest symbols known to man is the ouroboros - the snake eating its own tail. While this word is Greek, the symbol most surely goes back even further in time, perhaps to Egypt. The part where the mouth is eating the tail matches the bulge near the center of the galaxy. Folklore about this section of the sky was quite common so the Maya were not unique in this way.
The ouroboros - a snake eating its own tail. This
symbol comes from the image of the Milky Way.
The ouroboros in the Milky Way.
From the northern hemisphere, the summer midnight sky offers the best view of the center of the galaxy. On the other hand, during the winter, the sun is constantly near the center of the galaxy and the sun obscures the brightest section of the Milky Way with its own brightness. I bring this up because on December 21, 2012, everything will appear to be perfectly normal yet if we could push a magic button and make it so that we could see both the sun and the stars around it, we would clearly see the sun near the brightest section of the Milky Way, right in front of the middle of the dark rift. (See the first screenshot at the beginning of this essay.) The sun in the middle of the dark rift was seen by the Maya as a rebirth of the sun. We'll learn more about that very soon.
The Plane of the Galaxy
Now, if you can imagine our galaxy, our pancake, being flattened all the way, you'd be left with something called “the mid-plane of the galaxy.” This is also known as the plane of the galaxy or the galactic plane.
From our viewpoint on earth, we are always looking into the edge of this plane so we “see” it as a line. This line is called the galactic equator since it simply divides the Milky Way into two equal halves. In this way, we can picture the galactic equator as a line in the sky drawn through the middle of the stars of the Milky Way, very near the middle of the dark rift. Astronomers have precisely defined the position of the galactic equator and you can see it marked on many star charts because it is part of the fixed background of the stars. Since the dark rift is irregularly shaped, it has no precisely defined midline. If we focus on the part of the dark rift that the sun travels across and pick the mid-point of that crossing, that mid-point would be within about a quarter of a degree from the galactic equator. Since the sun's diameter is about a half of a degree, we see that the galactic equator is fairly close to the middle of the dark rift.
This is the approximate location of the galactic equator. As the night unfolds and
the earth rotates, the angle it makes with the horizon will change significantly.
I am using the word “see” a little loosely. It's like seeing the equator of the earth. Obviously, there isn't a line painted on the ground at the equator of the earth but the nature of the earth's equator does gives rise to a precisely located imaginary reference line. So it is with the galactic equator; it can't be seen yet it is precisely located. We will soon see why I think it is more important to talk about what the Maya could actually see with their naked eye - the dark rift - rather than the galactic equator but again, these two things are very close to each other.
Now let's just take a few minutes to cover some information about the cultural views of the Maya.
The Maya Idea of Rebirth on the Winter Solstice
Michael Coe and others traced the origin of the Long Count calendar back over 2,000 years to the little-known pre-Maya site of Izapa in the southernmost tip of Mexico, near the Pacific Ocean, south of present day Chiapas. (Don't confuse Izapa, pronounced es-AH-pa, with Ixtapa, pronounced eeks-TAH-pa, which is up the Pacific coast. Also note that even though the Long Count calendar has a cycle length of about 5,125 years, it was put into use about 2,000 years ago. In other words, it was put into use without starting it at the beginning. It appears that it was shifted intentionally in order to place its restart date exactly on the winter solstice of 2012.)
In Izapa, we find more than sixty carved stone monuments that display ancient esoteric cosmology. We also find a supremely important ball court. It is long and narrow and it points towards the location on the horizon where the sun will rise on the day of the winter solstice and it has been doing this like clockwork for thousands of years. At one end of the ballcourt, there is a throne, which gives the king the best view of this special sunrise. On the front of this throne is a carving of a large round ball, symbolic of the sun in the birth canal coming forth into our world. This is just one of the many examples that demonstrate the importance of the winter solstice and the fact that the Maya saw it as a rebirth. In addition to that, there are many non-astronomical metaphors in Izapa that also point to transformation and rebirth but since this essay focuses on the astronomy so I will just continue. It certainly is not a coincidence that the ball court points towards the winter solstice sunrise. Likewise, I don't think that it's just a coincidence that the calendar also restarts exactly on a winter solstice.
The Sacred Triple Rebirth of the Sun
It is my opinion that the most important aspect of the special astronomy of 2012 can be described as the sacred triple rebirth of the sun. Let's go over these rebirths one at a time as this special day will unfold. (By the way, the events and times that I give are for Izapa, Mexico, which is in Central Time. A similar situation unfolds all around the world yet in the southern hemisphere, there will be a summer solstice, which does not play out very well for the rebirth metaphor. But that is okay since the Maya were not concerned about trying to make this a global metaphor; they were primarily interested in their own point of view.)
At 5:11 AM, the winter solstice will occur. This can be seen as the rebirth of the sun in the time frame of the year since the length of the day will now start to grow longer. If the days were to continue to grow shorter, the cold winter would only tighten its grip and we would all perish. So this rebirth is truly vital.
Surnrise will occur about an hour and twenty minutes later and the most fundamental rebirth of the sun will be displayed in all its glory. Everyday when the sun sets, it goes below the horizon, seemingly under the ground of the earth, and we are left to endure a dark, cold night. Metaphorically, it can be said that the sun leaves our world and travels into the underworld, where it is said to be dead for the duration of the night. Yet at dawn, it rises above the ground and is reborn into our world bringing forth the light and heat we all need to stay alive. Obviously, if the sun would no longer rise, again all of life would perish and because of this, the sun has been used for thousands of years by cultures all around the world as a symbol of the Creator's sustaining love.
Since the sunrise is so frequent, it is often taken for granted, but all of us of course know that this rebirth is also vital. In addition to that, sunrises are often quite beautiful. In fact, this astronomical shift can be one of nature's most dramatic display of beauty with its blaze of red and pink, yellow and gold. This is the shift that naturally awakens us from our slumber and this awakening can also be seen as our own daily rebirth since we, too, appear to be dead as we sleep through the night.
Our comfortable homes insulate us from the long, harsh winter nights but when you think of both the daily and yearly rebirths from the perspective of cultures with significantly less physical comfort, you can appreciate that these rebirths of the sun would be experienced in a very tactile way. So you can certainly understand the strong motivation to celebrate these turning points in the cycles of time.
With excellent viewing conditions, which the Maya certainly had, it is possible to easily see the bright section near the center of the galaxy without a telescope, although the dark rift intrudes into it. As I mentioned before, the massive ball of bright lights at the center of the galaxy was seen by the Maya as the pregnant belly of the mother of creation and the dark rift was seen as the galactic birth canal. In this way, the third rebirth occurs when the sun moves into the middle of the dark rift and this can be referred to as the galactic rebirth and it happens once a year. So the three rebirths of the sun can be referred to as the daily rebirth, the solstice rebirth and the galactic rebirth. A triple rebirth of the sun occurs in the years around 2012 when all three rebirths happen on the same calendar day. The sun will be very close to the middle of the dark rift throughout this special day and to my eye, it looks like it will be virtually in the middle about an hour before sunset. Let's zoom in for a closer look:
The sun will be in the middle of the dark rift in the late afternoon on Dec 21, 2012
This is it! The position of the sun is the main reason why the Maya picked this exact day. We will have the sun in front of the middle of the dark rift, the birth canal, on the same day as the winter solstice! This will create the triple rebirth of the sun! In addition to that, the sun will be virtually exactly in the middle of four planets on the sacred tree with Venus leading the parade across the sky! This combination is why the Maya picked 2012!
Throughout the year, due to the orbit of the earth around the sun, from the viewpoint of earth, the sun appears to be continuously moving slowly against the background stars and it is this apparent motion that creates a visual illusion of the sun crossing the middle of the dark rift once a year since the dark rift is part of the fixed background of the stars. For those of you who want a better understanding of why the sun travels across the dark rift, let's take a closer look at the way it works.
The Earth's Orbit Creates the Galactic Rebirth of the Sun
Here is a diagram that shows what's involved:
And here is another diagram that helps explain the apparent motion of the sun:
Here are the screenshots from my astronomy software program that show the sun crossing the dark rift in 2012. Each day, the sun appears to move a bit more to the left against the background stars.
Here is the first day:
Here is the second day:
And finally, here is the third day:
See how precise this is? Just one day makes a difference in the perfect timing of the galactic rebirth of the sun!
The following simple exercise will help you correctly understand this crossing. Hold your left arm straight out with your thumb straight up. Your thumb will be like the dark rift. Imagine it to be very far away. Now, close one eye and hold your right index finger straight up about halfway between your thumb and your open eye. Make it so that your finger appears just to the right of your thumb. Your finger will be like the sun. Now, without moving either your thumb or your finger, move your eye from your left to your right. Your eye is like the earth orbiting the sun. You will see your finger appear to move from the right side of your thumb to the left side of your thumb.
This is just like the sun crossing the dark rift. At the peak of the crossing, your eye is perfectly lined up with your finger and your thumb. While the alignment is real, it is an illusion that your finger moves across your thumb; only your eye is moving, not your finger. So it is with the galactic rebirth of the sun; only the earth is moving, not the sun. Since this point is so important and so often misunderstood, I want to be perfectly clear: the sun does not actually cross the dark rift, it only appears to do so from our viewpoint on earth.
While the rebirth of the sun was a very important metaphor for the Maya, they also had another metaphor for the sun crossing this region of the Milky Way. It was seen as father sun mating with the galactic mother. In 2012, this special lovemaking will result in the birth of what the Maya called “a new world age,” which is represented by a new cycle of the Long Count calendar. Yes indeed, lovemaking and creation are at the core of 2012, not death and destruction.
Now let's take a look at what I call the galactic crossing of 2012. On December 21, 2012, the sun will appear to cross both the middle of the dark rift and the galactic equator. While I think that the Maya focused on the middle of the dark rift for their rebirth metaphor, the following sections will focus on the galactic equator but again, please bear in mind that it is only a slight shift from the galactic equator to the middle of the dark rift. And again, the reason that I am breifly focusing on the galactic equator is because almost all other 2012 researchers focus on the galactic equator so by understanding the following material, you will be able to understand these other researchers.
The Galactic Crossing of 2012
Due to the speed that the earth orbits the sun, this crossing takes about 15 hours and the midpoint of the crossing is a perfect alignment of the earth, the sun and the galactic equator. This is commonly called “a galactic alignment” but that is not a formal astronomical term. Again, if we could push a magic button and make it so that we could see both the sun and the galactic equator during this time, we would see the sun appear to cross the galactic equator very near the middle of the dark rift of the Milky Way. Please note that from the viewpoint of the Maya, both the background stars containing the galactic equator and the sun appear to move in the sky from left to right due to the spinning of the earth. But the apparent motion of the sun is not as fast as the background stars due to the counteracting effect of the orbit of the earth around the sun. This results in the sun moving from right to left against the background stars and this makes the sun appear to cross the galactic equator. Let's take a look.
The Annual Galactic Alignment
Quite surprising to many people is the fact that these galactic alignments happen once a year. Yes, they happen simply because the earth orbits the sun. But in the years around 2012, the moment of the galactic alignments occurs near the moment of the winter solstice. This is because of the way the angle of the earth's axis of rotation lines up with the plane of the galaxy.
Below are two diagrams showing the configuration of the plane of the galaxy and the plane of the earth-sun orbit. These two planes intersect each other at an angle of 60 degrees. This angle never changes. You can easily see why this configuration leads to the annual galactic alignment. The diameter of the earth's orbit around the sun is greatly exaggerated so that you can see this important layout.
And here is another diagram showing a view looking right along the intersection of the two planes at the time of the alignment. Again, the diameter of the earth's orbit around the sun, shown as the yellow dashed line, is greatly exaggerated.
The annual galactic alignment between the earth, the sun and the galactic equator.
When it comes to 2012, many people talk about the center of the galaxy rather than the galactic equator. Notice that the galactic alignment that I just described is with the galactic equator, not the center of the galaxy, although the center of the galaxy is somewhat nearby. In fact, it is only about six degrees away from being aligned with the earth and the sun.
We should note that the winter solstice happens once every tropical year while the galactic alignment happens once every sidereal year. Yes, two different types of years are at play. A tropical year is the time it takes to go from one winter solstice to the next winter solstice while a sidereal year is the time it takes for the earth to complete one orbit. The background stars are used to measure a sidereal year. On average, a sidereal year is 20 minutes longer than the tropical year and this difference arises because of the precession of the earth’s axis of rotation, which is a 26,000-year cycle also known as the great year. It is the cycle of precession that brings the winter solstice and the galactic alignment together in the years around 2012.
The Driving Question Behind the Creation of the Long Count Calendar
Now let's go way back in time and imagine being a Maya sky watcher several thousand years ago. In the summer time, you would clearly see the spectacular section of the sky containing the center of the galaxy and the dark rift. There is nothing else in the night sky that looks even remotely like this. It is quite stunning and very intriguing. You would be drawn to it and stories would be created about it. Throughout the year, you would also frequently see planets traveling on or near the ecliptic and at certain times, you would see them travel right across the dark rift. Planets stand out because they are free to wander against the fixed background of the stars - that is the origin of the word, wandering star - but they cannot go just anywhere; they can only travel along the special road near the ecliptic.
Eventually we would also learn that the sun travels across the dark rift - the birth canal - as winter approached and each year it would do this a little bit closer to the day of the winter solstice. This would lead us to ask what year in the distant future will the sun be in the middle of the dark rift on the day of the winter solstice. In other words, when will there be the triple rebirth of the sun? In my opinion, this was the driving motivation behind the creation of the Long Count calendar, not a psychic prediction of any kind concerning the conditions of mankind or the world we live in.
Throughout the year, the sun slowly moves from right to left against the background stars. On the
winter solstice of 2012, the sun will be in front of the middle of the dark rift.
Now let's add a little more to our desired scenario. The Maya would most certainly want to celebrate the sun's presence in the middle of the birth canal at a time when this is actually happening in the sky above them - in other words, during the day. Since the sun is considered to be dead at night, if this astronomical event happened at night, it would not be very useful for their metaphor or very interesting for the purpose of their festivities; they would want the sun to be alive during the rebirth celebration!
So the question now becomes: When will the sun be in the middle of the dark rift on the day of the winter solstice while in the sky over the Maya? If there is more than one year that fits these qualifications, what year will also include an interesting planetary configuration? In my opinion, it is important to note that these are all very natural questions; I don't think that they are contrived at all. And there is absolutely no doubt that the very balanced sacred tree of 2012 offers us an excellent solution to these questions. On this special day, Venus will rise before the sun and lead a parade of planets, with the sun in the middle, across the sky over the Maya throughout the entire day. Spectacular! Just spectacular!
A Bigger Idea: The Rebirth of the Great Year
I find the triple rebirth of the sun to be fascinating. But perhaps the Maya are actually using it to point to something even bigger: the rebirth of the great year. Without going into the details here, it turns out that we can metaphorically state that the great year has four seasons, just like our regular year. In this way, we find that the great year will soon be reborn during its own winter solstice and that December 21, 2012 is an excellent choice as the time when this will happen. So on the day that the calendar itself is reborn, we have the sacred triple rebirth of the sun and the rebirth of the great year! How fantastic!
Now we see that from the viewpoint of the Maya, December 21, 2012 is more than just another winter solstice; it is the most important winter solstice of all the winter solstices throughout the entire great year. This therefore makes this day the single most important day in the entire great year! There are over 9.4 million days in the great year and perhaps the Maya picked this day as the day that the great year restarts!
The concept of precession is in the Maya mythology and also in their calendar. The calendar's restart date undeniably contains all this amazing astronomy that is keyed to precession and the position of the planets. The poetic beauty is breathtaking; the actual astronomy is profoundly precise! How can all this be a coincidence? I find it to be completely mind-blowing!
To my knowledge, I am the only researcher who describes the special event of 2012 exactly like I do. Some researchers focus on 1998 and the years surrounding it. But I don't think that that is what the Maya were trying to pinpoint with their calendar, though missing it by 14 years. I think that they successfully hit exactly what they were aiming at: the sacred triple rebirth of the sun and the special configuration of the sacred tree!
An Extremely Precise Value for the Length of the Year
And now let's go further into the question of how difficult it was for them to restart their calendar exactly on this particular winter solstice from over 2,000 years away.
Imagine that it is the winter solstice and that you and I want to make a calendar that restarts precisely on the winter solstice ten years from now. We would just multiply the length of the year by ten to get the correct number of days that our calendar would need.
But if we think that the year is exactly 365 days long, rather than the more correct value of 365.2422 days long, then you can see that over ten years, we would be off by more than two days. (3650 days compared with 3652.422 days.) And, if instead, we want the calendar to restart in one hundred years or one thousand years, you can see that we would need to know the length of the year with greater and greater precision.
To intentionally hit this particular winter solstice from over 2,000 years away, it turns out that the Maya would have needed to know the length of the year to within 45 seconds! This is like measuring the width of the United States to within 20 feet or the distance from Los Angeles to Tokyo to within 40 feet! In terms of a percentage, this is 99.9999 percent correct! In my opinion, this is not merely remarkable; this is absolutely stunning!
But this is only one aspect of the astronomy that needed to be known to a very precise level. The Maya also needed to know the rate of precession and the amount of shift required to bring the galactic rebirth onto the same day as the solstice rebirth. In addition to that, they also needed extremely precise knowledge to accurately predict the positions of the planets on the sacred tree. All of this leads many people to conclude that they must have had help from extraterrestrials. But I hold a different opinion, which you can read about here: Did Extraterrestrials Create the Maya Calendar?
Before we move on to a few brief comments about the Maya's metaphorical message of rebirth, I have one more point that I would like to discuss.
John Major Jenkins's Alignment Zone
It is very important for me to point out that in the mid-1990s, John Major Jenkins became the first person to link the restart date of the Maya calendar to an astronomical event driven by precession and he refers to this event as a “galactic alignment.” John is well aware of the Maya’s metaphor of the dark rift as the birth canal and he clearly sees the sun’s presence in the dark rift as a rebirth. But there is something astronomers call the galactic equator that is very near the middle of the dark rift and this is what John focused on, perhaps because its exact location is precisely defined by astronomers. Astronomers verified that the center of the disk of the sun would be almost exactly on the galactic equator at the precise moment of the winter solstice in the year 1998. John noticed that this alignment would occur repeatedly in the years around 1998 with only slight variation from one year to the next. Because of this, John decided to pick a range of 36 years that he centered around 1998 and he refers to these years as the "alignment zone." During these years, the disk of the sun, as seen from earth, will be touching the galactic equator at the moment of the winter solstice. This zone goes from 1980 to 2016 and it obvious includes 2012. In his view, this zone is the intended target of the Maya calendar and he often refers to this as era-2012.
I have tremendous respect for John personally and I like much of his work. While he most certainly discovered that the calendar is linked to the astronomy, I do not find this zone approach to be very satisfying. With so much precision being demonstrated by the creators of the calendar, I seriously doubted that they missed their intended target by 14 years, even though that is still a very small error. I felt there must be something special about the exact day of the winter solstice of 2012 as seen from the specific location of the Maya. This is why I went further with my own original research and thinking and I came to the conclusion that both the triple rebirth of the sun and the unique configuration of the sacred tree flying through the sky over the Maya on that special day was the target of the calendar. Both the restart date and the place where the calendar was created are important. We cannot ignore that this is a Maya calendar, not an Egyptian calendar or a global calendar. While the sun will be exactly in the middle of the dark rift during the day for the Maya, this event will happen during the night for people on the other side of the world. So the triple rebirth metaphor will not play out very well for those locations. But this is not a problem since the Maya were only concerned with what will be over them during that day, not what will be over others elsewhere. In this way, we see that the Maya hit the exact day that they were aiming at! Completely mind-blowing!
My view focuses on the center of the dark rift, not the galactic equator, although again, these two things are very close to each other. But more importantly, my view focuses on what will happen on that day over the Maya, not what will happen over a long period of time. Please consider the fact that no one can ever look up into the sky and see the galactic equator for it is as invisible as the equator of the earth. Both are precisely located by scientists yet both are imaginary lines. It is important to note that the Maya could look up into the sky at certain times and actually see the dark rift with their naked eye and this makes the astronomy useful for their metaphorical folklore. I think this is an essential point in understanding 2012. The idea that the Maya restarted their calendar because of the combination of the triple rebirth of the sun and this unique configuration of the sacred tree is to the best of my knowledge, original with me. While other people are aware of the solar rebirths and the sacred tree in general, to my knowledge no one has connected them to 2012 like I have.
As a side note, consider that in about 130 B.C., the same time frame as the creation of the Maya calendar, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus estimated precession to be 36,000 years or less. He was off by 10,000 years! Even so, Hipparchus is very famous for his work on precession and he wrote two books on the subject. He is considered by some people to be the greatest astronomer of antiquity. I can only add that it's a good thing he was not in charge of creating the Maya calendar!
Now, before I concluded this essay, I just want to add a couple of comments about what all of this might mean for us today.
How Should We Think of 2012?
The Maya's Timeless Message of Transformation and Rebirth
It is my view that the astronomy of 2012 will not cause anything unusual to happen to us, physically or spiritual. Remember that the triple rebirth of the sun is caused by the earth going through three different motions: it spins on its axis once a day, it travels around the sun once a year, and it wobbles on its axis once every 26,000 years. The triple rebirth of the sun does not come about due to anything happening to the sun itself; it comes about due to the shifts in our relationship with the sun. These three motions have been repeating for billions of years and there is no reason to expect that the astronomy will suddenly cause something unusual to happen to us in 2012. I think that the Maya also knew this and this is why it made perfect sense for them to use the astronomy as a timeless rebirth metaphor rather than as an alarm for danger or a time marker for world peace. In my opinion, this is an extremely important point that is completely misunderstood by many people. By the way, I talk much more about the Maya's timeless metaphor of transformation and rebirth in my book Mystical 2012, which you can read in its entirety online.
If you think that the astronomy might cause some effect - either physically or spiritually - then I invite you to consider that the time of change connected with 2012 would be a long period of transformation, rather than a sudden shift. Astronomically, there is very little difference between the position of the earth's axis now and where it will be in 2012. In fact, it is 99.996 percent in that position today (December 2011). Add to this the fact that the galactic alignment happens every year and we should completely remove people's fear of imminent global disaster due to some astronomical driving force. Since the precessional cycle is so slow, I think that it is safe to say that not only would this period of transformation be happening now, it would have been happening for hundreds of years and it would continue for the next several hundred years. But again, I don't think there will be any unusual effect whatsoever due to the astronomy of 2012. Yet let me point out that in my opinion, our world is almost certainly heading towards a fair amount of change due to the unsustainable nature of some of our behavior. But none of this change will be due to the astronomy of 2012.
I hope that I have been able to help people understand the actual astronomy of 2012 and see how it provides the foundation for the Long Count calendar. If you were looking for a clear and easy way to understanding why the Maya picked 2012, I hope you found it here. Yet I also hope that I have inspired you to take an even deeper look into both the actual astronomy of 2012 and the timeless metaphorical message that the Maya are offering us. You can get more information in my other 2012 essays. No matter what, let's bring a positive attitude forward and do our best with what arises! Maybe along with the calendar and the sun, we too will be reborn, both individually and as a group!
Written January 1, 2009
Revised December 5, 2011
If you find these comments intriguing, perhaps you will enjoy my book, Mystical 2012: Did the Maya Shamans Discover a Mystical View of Reality? You can buy the paperback or ebook at Amazon.com. If you like my material, please spread the word! I would rather have many people enjoy my work for free than just a few who decide to purchase it.
You can also read my other 2012 essays at:
Well, thanks for reading my essay! Have a great day!
If you enjoyed this essay, then you might like some of my other work:
• Infinitely Mystical, my main website, is here: infinitelymystical.com