NASA Nixes Doomsday Fears About the “Dark Rift” –Earth’s Alignment With Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole on the Winter Solstice

             Eso-vlt-laser-star

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 is the widespread notion that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, and the center of our galaxy, which is obscured by the Dark Rift, on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to planetary destruction. 

The image above shows a laser beaming out of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile with the Milky Way and the "Dark Rift"  overhead. 

The Dark Rift is a series of overlapping, non-luminous, molecular dust clouds that are located between our Solar System and the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way at a distance 300 light years from Earth, starting at the constellation of Cygnus stretching to Aquila, then to Ophiuchus, where it broadens out, then reaching Sagittarius, where it obscures the Galactic Center and the supermassive black hole, Sag* A, about 28,000 light-years awayweighing some four million times the sun's mass, and finally to Centaurus. A similar dark band can be seen in edge-on distant galaxies, such as NGC 891 in Andromeda (image below).

The clouds are estimated to contain about 1 million solar masses of plasma and dust that to the naked eye appears as a dark lane that divides the bright band of the Milky Way lengthwise, through about one-third of its extent.

The claim for a 2012 doomsday links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third — the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere — to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

The coincidence of the solstice with the sun entering the Dark Rift somehow portending disaster or the mistaken notion that the sun and Earth becoming aligned with the black hole in the galactic center creates some kind of massive gravitational pull on Earth.

The solstice itself does not correlate to any movements of the stars or anything in the universe beyond Earth. It just happens to be the day that Earth's North Pole is tipped farthest from the sun.Second, Earth is not within range of strong gravitational effects from the black hole at the center of the galaxy since gravitational effects decrease exponentially the farther away one gets. Earth is 93 million miles from the sun and 165 quadrillion miles from the Milky Way's black hole. 

The sun and the moon (a smaller mass, but much closer) are by far the most dominant gravitational forces on Earth. Throughout the course of the year, our distance from the Milky Way's black hole changes by about one part in 900 million – not nearly enough to cause a real change in gravity's pull. Moreover, we're actually nearest to the galactic center in the summer, not at the winter solstice.
Third, the sun appears to enter the part of the sky occupied by the Dark Rift every year at the same time, and its arrival there in Dec. 2012 portends precisely nothing.

As NASA's experts recommend: "enjoy the solstice, by all means, and don't let the Dark Rift, alignments, solar flares, magnetic field reversals, potential impacts or alleged Maya end-of-the-world predictions get in the way."

The image below is NGC 891, a great edge on galaxy with dust lanes that are similar to out own Milky Way. The dark rift from Cygnus down to Sagittarius is now given a different perspective. It is approximately 120 light years across and 43 million light years away from Earth.

NGC0891bLG

The Daily Galaxy via JPL/NASA

Image credit top of page: ESO/G. Hüdepohl (www.atacamaphoto.com)

Image credit bottom of page: With thanks to Same Pitts, 2007

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