Long-period comets, so called because their extremely elongated elliptical orbits only bring them into the inner solar system once every several thousand years, are spotted while they are still far out in space (often by amateur astronomers), and tracked intensively as they plunge inward toward the sun. This one, named Comet Elenin, will be 35 million kilometers from Earth at its closest point, which will be on October 16. Unfortunately, it appears that Elenin won't be all that showy -- some long-period comets have lit up the night sky for weeks.
A news story, you would think, of only mild interest to anyone who is not an astronomy buff. So you can imagine my surprise when I found that websites were popping up all over the place whose main message was:
AAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGGGHHH WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! COMET ELENIN WILL KILL US ALL! DEATH DOOM DESPAIR DESTRUCTION! *pant pant pant gasp*
For example, take a look at this site, which blames Comet Elenin for recent earthquakes. When Comet Elenin "comes into alignment with Earth," we have "devastating earthquakes." "The last three alignments produced the Japanese 9.0 quake, the one in New Zealand and before that the one in Chile," writes Mark Sircus, author of the article.
Now, my first question is, what does it mean for two objects to "come into alignment?" How can two objects not be in alignment? Two objects always lie along a straight line. You may recall from high school geometry class that Euclid had a few things to say about this. So Comet Elenin is in alignment with the Earth right now, which probably accounts for why I had such weird dreams last night.
Sircus then goes on to state ominously, "When the next alignment happens it will be devastatingly close." *cue dramatic music*
Now, you doubters out there are probably thinking, "Wait a moment. Comets are just giant dirty snowballs. How could an object that small, which is still a couple of hundred million kilometers away, have any effect on us at all?"
Well, Sircus is way ahead of that argument. "The main point to understand," Sircus writes, "is that if Elenin was just a normal comet it would not have the mass to generate a gravity pull that would affect the Earth when the Earth swings around into alignment."
Ooookay, so how does he know it's not a normal comet? Because when it "came into alignment with the Earth" on March 11, the Japanese earthquake occurred. So we know it's not a normal comet because it causes earthquakes, and we know it causes earthquakes because it's not a normal comet. Got that straight, now?
Sircus goes on to say:
The whole solar system seems to be heating up, the sun is becoming active and earth-changing events are becoming more frequent and intense with beyond-worst-case-scenario climate changes hitting around the globe. We have increasing geo-activity, volcanoes, earthquakes, rogue tides, sinking islands, magnetic pole migration, mass animal deaths, huge unexplained whirlpools in the Atlantic and so much more it would make anyone’s head spin.Which is obviously true in his case. He concludes:
There is a history to Elenin that has been visible for years but now she is upon us and there is nothing we can do but prepare and pray—and love like we have never loved before. We have to acknowledge and accept that there is a danger and there is a possibility that part of our civilization and the people in it will be lost.So, anyway, here's another thing to worry about. On October 16, we have Elenin causing chaos on the Earth, and then, just five days later, we have Harold Camping's revised date for doomsday, when Satan arrives and starts making giant shish kebabs out of the unrighteous.
It should be an exciting fall. You can think of it as being a dress rehearsal for December 21, 2012.