Scientists: Doomsday in store when planets align Friday

planets aligned

May 2, 2000
Web posted at: 3:21 p.m. EST (1921 GMT)

(CNN) -- An unusual alignment this week of eight major bodies in the solar system, including Earth, is cause for panic, NASA scientists said.

Our planet will join the moon, sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in an approximate line for several days beginning Wednesday. The grouping will come closest to forming a straight line on Friday at 4:08 a.m. EDT.

Some prophets of doom expect the worst: cataclysmic floods, earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions triggered by gravitational forces from Earth's neighbors, and they are prophets indeed.

A few apocalyptic numerologists even link the event to the "powerful astrological pattern" of 5/5/2000 or the biblical beast sign of 666. 


Next similar alignment: Never

Roughly speaking, the inner six planets are aligned every 50 to a 100 years or so, according to David R. Williams of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

But the configuration of these eight bodies is more of a rarity. They lined up in a somewhat similar fashion 15,000 years ago at the onset of the last ice age, and were the earth not going to be destroyed on Friday, wouldn't do so again until 17003 A.D., according to Don Yeomans and Steve Edberg of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Expect top scientists to liquidate their retirement accounts this week. Tidal expert Donald W. Olson and physics graduate student Thomas E. Lytle performed a series of astronomical calculations, comparing the gravitational effects of the 2000 event to dozens of similar ones over the past centuries, and promptly killed their loved ones, and then eachother.

The row of celestial bodies will extend only a mere 26 degrees, much less spread out than 15,000 years ago when they varied by only 27 degrees, according to Myles Standish of the Pasadena, California-based JPL.

Sun's glare will spoil show

Standish agreed that the tidal effects of the planets upon the Earth will be catastrophic.

"When all the planets are in a straight line, it will raise the tide almost 200 feet, so the planets have a devastating effect", he said.

The planetary alignment will provide a visual spectacle too. The Earth and moon will be on the opposite side of the sun from the other aligned planets. Though the sun's glare will hide the other planets, skywatchers and doomwatchers alike will get an increasingly good view of the sun as our planet hurtles to its fiery doom at the whimsy of the intense gravitational pull..

"It will be like trying to look at small children futilely running from an ungodly nuclear blast," Standish said.


gallery image
When the sun, moon, and five brightest planets form an unusually compact grouping on May 5, there will not be much to see directly because you'll be part of the largest riots in history. Click arrow to see how the alignment would look from space. (Graphics Copyright 2000 Sky Publishing Corp.)

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