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Watch Today’s Total Eclipse Live

Total Solar Eclipse of March 29, 2006 (© Fred Espenak)

Today, tens of thousands of people are gathering in northeastern Australia to witness one of the most amazing and dramatic astronomical events known: a total solar eclipse. At 2:39 p.m. EDT (19:39 UT) the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun for viewers around Cairns, Australia, leading up to a brief period of totality at 5:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 UT). At this time, the Sun will be completely blocked by the disk of the Moon, revealing the wispy strands of the Sun’s outer corona. It will be a spectacular view that’s possible at no other time, and will give scientists a chance to study some curious aspectsof the Sun’s atmosphere.

“On a scale of one to ten, a total solar eclipse is a MILLION.” – Fred Espenak, aka “Mr. Eclipse

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Apocalypse? NO. (Despite What Chevy Says)

Chevrolet's commercial plays on 2012 fears (and rips off Ian O'Neill's pyramid image)

So the buzz is buzzing about Chevy’s Super Bowl ad and its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the aftermath from the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. Of course the message is typical — drive a Chevy truck and survive, drive anything else and perish. Which is cute and of course the production value is high, but the problem is that to more than a few people, this is something they are on the fence about already, or even honestly believe in. Which, being bad science, is something I am 100% against.

Luckily there are plenty of science sources that are more than happy to offer fact-based consolation that there is no actual evidence that anything cosmically bad is expected to occur on Dec. 21 (or any other date, for that matter) but the “doomsday” talk continues, hot and heavy, on many pseudoscience sites and forums. Which I would otherwise pay no attention to except that it seems that many honestly uninformed people seem to be running into their wrong science more often than the actual science, due to their prolific postings and unfortunately strong search-engine visibility. This has done nothing but spread confusion, fear and, in at least one case that I heard recently (via Phil Plait of BadAstronomy) a suicide by a young man who feared the coming apocalypse. That’s just sad and intolerable, in my opinion, and should make all those who continue to purposely spread such disinformation ashamed of themselves.

Sadly, I’m sure such people are going to love the aforementioned truck ad.

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2012 Hoaxes Debunked… by SCIENCE

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s only January 5th and already nervous chatter about “end of the world” fears has gone into high gear… except, of course, among those who know that there’s nothing to worry about. Still, I have heard rumors of people, many young people still in school, who don’t know the real information and have heard only the hoaxes put out by “doomsayers” online, citing at least half a dozen different ways the world is “supposed” to be destroyed in December of this year. None of them with any basis in reality, all of them trumped-up hearsay and nothing more than pure imagination.

Imagination is fun, of course, but not when it actually negatively affects people’s lives – and even potentially their safety.

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No Doom in 2012: Stop the Insanity!

Earth2012

Now that’s we’re officially three days into 2012, the ‘net is already abuzz with talk of impending doom on December 21 of this year. Luckily there are plenty of science sources that are more than happy to offer fact-based consolation that there is no actual evidence that anything cosmically bad is expected to occur on Dec. 21 (or any other date, for that matter) but the “doomsday” talk continues, hot and heavy, on many pseudoscience sites and forums. Which I would otherwise pay no attention to except that it seems that many honestly uninformed people seem to be running into their wrong science more often than the actual science, due to their prolific postings and unfortunately strong search-engine visibility. This has done nothing but spread confusion, fear and, in at least one case that I heard just this morning (via Phil Plait of BadAstronomy) a suicide by a young man who feared the coming apocalypse. That’s just sad and intolerable, in my opinion, and should make all those who continue to spread such disinformation ashamed of themselves.

I can’t stress this enough: there is NO EVIDENCE OF ANY DANGER TO HUMANS OR THE PLANET OCCURRING THIS YEAR OR ANY PARTICULAR OTHER. Not yet, of course. I mean, things happen, wars happen, diseases and natural events happen. But actual scientists who dedicate their lives, reputations and livelihoods to the study of the Earth, the solar system and the Universe see nothing on deck for the immediate future. Period. Maybe they will discover something surprising this year, that can’t be 100% discounted. But… the odds of that are very, very, very, very slim.

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The End of Elenin

Images of Comet Elenin show a pronounced dimming between August 19 and September 6, indicating a likely disintegration. Credit: Michael Mattiazzo

So long, Elenin, and thanks for all the conspiracy theories! The comet that has been the subject of so much unfounded fearful speculation since its discovery in December 2010 will be making its closest pass of Earth tomorrow, October 16 – and when they say closest it means 22 million miles, or almost a third of the distance to the Sun! Then again, what’s left of it will be passing by Earth. Based on recent observations – like the images from Mike Mattiazzo above and below from the comet’s discoverer, Leonid Elenin – it seems it may have pretty much fallen apart.

 “Folks are having trouble finding it, so I think it’s probably dead and gone.”

– Don Yeomans, JPL

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