SANFORD — Doomsday is upon us — or so some believe.
Perhaps the planet Nibiru, the celestial body reportedly discovered by the Sumerians, will sideswipe Earth one week from today. Maybe a meteor will strike and vaporize the planet on Dec. 21, or some sort of star alignment will create a universal impact as foretold by the ancient Mayans.
NASA has debunked these and many other end-of-the-world theories surrounding the Mayan calendar, maintaining that the world will continue to spin next Friday and for many more years to come.
"The world will not end in 2012," according to a NASA news release. "Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012."
The idea of the end of days happening this month stems from a difference in the way different cultures perceive and think of time, according to Central Carolina Community College history professor Robert Barnes.
The typical Western view of time is linear, he said, where many other cultures view time as a cycle, including the ancient Mayans.
"There is a strong academic interpretation that 2012 doesn't represent an end date," Barnes said, "but a resetting point for the long cycle for the Mayans."
The Mayans had an advanced calendar, more advanced then anything humans are using today, he said.
People have always been fascinated by the idea of the end of time, whether it comes about through some sort of man-created doomsday or religious apocalypse, he said.
"Throughout generations, people have always thought they were living on the edge of the apocalypse," Barnes said. "Generation after generation thought they would see the end of days."
The Rev. Jeff Clark, senior minster of the First Baptist Church of Sanford, said he doesn't believe the world will end next week, and from a theological viewpoint, only God will know the date.
"He said it is not for us to know," Clark said. "Only God knows, so I'll pretty much let God figure that out and not worry."
People have always wanted to know the future, and even the disciples closest to Jesus asked him the date, Clark said.
"For whatever reason, it has always been a concern of ours about when the world is coming to an end," he said. "After the 21st, there be another date, and another and another. It's human nature to want to know the future."
The bottom line, Clark said, is the New Testament is clear that people should trust God and let him take care of the end of days.
Barnes, who recently finished teaching for the semester, said his students have asked a few questions, and he likes to give them a variety of theories and facts on how the world may end.
"I want to give them the information," Barnes said. "They can form their own perspective and their own ideas."
MOST COMMON DEC. 21, 2012 DOOMSDAY MYTHS
Myth: Planet Nibiru, Planet X
According to legend, the ancient Sumerian culture claimed a planet would sideswipe Earth and destroy it in 2012. According to NASA, there is no factual basis for these claims, and if a planet was approaching Earth, it currently would be visible to the naked eye.
Myth: Giant asteroid or meteor
Earth is constantly impacted by meteors, but large hits to Earth are rare, with the last one leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. NASA is using a Spaceguard Survey to detect any large meteors near the Earth and none of been deemed potentially dangerous.
Myth: Planet alignment
The last major alignment occurred in 1962, with others occurring in 1982 and 2000, and the alignments have no impact on Earth. According to NASA, the Earth and sun align with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy every December, but has no consequence.
Myth: Solar Storm
Solar activity has an 11-year cycle and is set to peak from 2012 to 2014. There may be some slight interruption of satellite communication due to this activity, but there is no risk, according to NASA.
All information was compiled from NASA research. More information is available here