MANILA, Philippines—A group of Filipino astronomers and planetary scientists pushing for the creation of a “Philippine Space Agency” is the latest members of the scientific community to debunk the Dec. 21, 2012, doomsday myth.
Academics from the Rizal Technological University (RTU), the only school in the country offering a degree program in astronomy, and the University of the Philippines-based National
Institute of Science and Mathematics Education Development, said the world will not end in 2012 as rumor has it.
At a press conference in Quezon City on Friday, the group addressed what it said were unfounded claims that a planet called Nibiru was on a collision course with Earth, coinciding with the winter solstice in 2012 and marking the end of a cycle in the ancient Mayan calendar.
The scholars used the occasion to formally launch the “Philippine Space Initiative,” a proposal to create a Philippine version of the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or Nasa.
Frederick Gabriana, an RTU professor, said a “galactic alignment” will occur during the winter solstice on Dec. 21, when the sun intersects with the galactic equator.
“However, what is not true is when people say this will cause end of the world,” he said.
“This occurs every 26,000 years, so if a galactic alignment brings about the end of the world, the Earth would have ended millions of times already. It’s a normal cycle that occurs due to the movement of bodies in the galaxy,” Gabriana said.
The end-of-the-world rumor is based on the claim that the ancient Mayans had predicted the end of the world in 2012, using an astronomical event, the galactic alignment, that is believed will occur at the end of the 13th Bak’tun in the Maya Long Count calendar (Dec. 21, 2012).
On that date the Sun will align with the center of the Milky Way galaxy (or the galactic equator), which only happens once every 25,772 years. The Mayans are supposed to have known of this alignment and set their Long Count calendar to end on this day because the alignment will cause something cataclysmic to happen, like a planet colliding with the Earth.
Dr. Jesus Rodrigo Torres, the president of RTU, said any planet hurtling toward Earth would have been observed by astronomers years ago, but no such thing had been observed.
The US Nasa has also debunked the myth in its website. “For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact,” it said.
“There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012,” Nasa said.
The Filipino scientists also launched an initiative to push for the establishment of a space agency that would be the Philippines’ version of Nasa, where Filipino astronomers and space scientists would have a central office that would lead research and development in space science.
‘Laggard in Asia’
“Sadly, the Philippines is a laggard in the Asian region when it comes to space science. We are even behind Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” said Custer Deocaris, another astronomy professor teaching at RTU.
Based on a draft bill to be filed in Congress, the proposed space agency will conduct research activities in the possible launching into space of space objects, such as satellites, the training of astronauts, and flights within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Jose Edgardo Aban, a scientist who was part of previous unsuccessful moves to create a Philippine space agency and who is now connected with the University of Brunei Darussalam, estimated that such an undertaking would involve at least $1 billion, or about P41 billion.