Will the planets align in 2012?

Question posed by Karenna

The planets are not due for an alignment in 2012.

Take a look at the picture above (nabbed from http://www.astro.uu.nl/~strous/AA/en/index.html). That's an image of the projected positions of the Sun, Moon and planets on 21st Dec 2012 as seen from Earth. It might be slightly hard to get your head round exactly what the image is telling you, but one thing that's obvious is that if there was an 'alignment', two or more of the planets would have to appear to be on top of one another. As it stands, they're all fairly evenly spread out- about as far from an 'alignment' as you can get!

There were similar predictions of doom for 5th May 2000, when there was something of an alignment. This diagram shows it better (click for original). It's a much more convincing alignment than the positions of the planets Needless to say, the world didn't end then (or else you wouldn't be reading this now...).

Astronomical events, including planetary (and other) alignments are often a source of doomsday hoaxes, possibly because a lot of people don't really understand how the universe works. This time, though, talk of planetary alignments in entirely made up!

Whether or not you can ever get a real alignment depends on the level of accuracy you want to use. You can get line-of-sight alignments with bodies in space- that's what eclipses are. They're rare, though, which is probably one reason why people leap on them when they happen (and even, it seems, when they don't!)

As a side note, you can only get a true alignment with three or more bodies. Why? An 'alignment' of planets can be imagined as being a number of planets whose centres all lie on the same imaginary straight line. If you only have two planets, you can always imagine a straight line that goes through both centres!

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  1. I may be just another wacko, looking for something out of nothing. I have no real data to back any of my ideas up. A long time ago, I thought gravity may have been a residual biproduct of our planets magnetic forces upon each other, their magnetic forces due to polarity and friction from their rotations. If you took sperical magnets and strung them like pearls, They would definately have a reaction upon each other. I wish I had data on the location of every planets poles both direction north and south current and on that crazy date that everyone worries about.


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