Thursday, December 20, 2012

Friday Morning Winter Begins - Apocalypse ?

This photograph, from the beginning of the twentieth century, shows public ice skating
on Lake Elizabeth in Allegheny Commons West Park, on Pittsburgh's North Side. Lake
Elizabeth is located just a few blocks west of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and
Institute of Popular Science.
(Source: Pennsylvania Department, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh;
Photographer: Frank E. Bingaman)

The season of Winter officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, at the time of the Winter Solstice, on Friday Morning, 2012 December 21 at 6:12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (11:12 Coordinated Universal Time). In ancient times, Mid-Winter festivals centered around the Winter Solstice, which calendars at that time often placed on December 25. Instead of fighting these pagan festivals, the early Christian church simply adopted December 25 as the symbolic birth date of Jesus Christ (the actual birth date probably occurred in August or September).

For several years, the Winter Solstice of 2012 has been promoted as the end of the "Long Count" cycle of the calendar of the Maya Civilization, which flourished in the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America from about A.D. 250 to 900. Many have considered the end of this Mayan Calendar cycle as the time of the Apocalypse or the "end of the world."

The Winter Solstice of 2012 does mark a time point when, due to the Precession of the Equinoxes, our Sun will occult (come directly between) the center of our Milky Way Galaxy as viewed from Earth. While the Earth rotates on its axis once a day, through what is known as Precession, the axis itself also goes through a rotation (similar to a spinning top which wobbles) which is completed once every 26,000 years.

Precession of the Equinoxes was discovered by the ancient Greek Astronomer Hipparchus. It is not known if Maya astronomers had, also. independently discovered Precession. If so, this may be one explanation for the completion of their Long Count Calendar at this time.

Either way, the Sun occulting the center of the Milky Way Galaxy has no greater significance than the many other astronomical occultations, which take place each year.

The Mayan Calendar has many cycles. Mayan astronomers calculated the beginning of the Maya as having occured on September 6 in the year 3114 B.C. (as represented in the Julian Calendar). This date started the first "baktun" cycle of the Maya Calendar. 2012 December 21 marks the end of the 12th Maya baktun and the beginning of the 13th Maya baktun.

Mayan ethnologists have determined that the beginning of a baktun was considered by the Maya as a time of rebirth, not a time of catastrophe. It is significant to note that the Maya Calendar had designated the count of 20 baktuns to be known as a piktun, 20 piktuns to be known as a kalabtun, 20 kalabtuns to be known as a kinchiltun, and 20 kinchiltuns to be known as an alatun (one alatun is 63,081,429 years, the largest single designation of time in any society).

It should be quite clear that the Maya foresaw no apocalypse or "end of the world" for 2012 December 21. In fact, the adherents of their faith consider the beginning of the 13th baktun to be a time of spiritual awakening and rebirth.

This includes Miguel Sague, an ethnic Mayan and a member of the Cancy Indian Spiritual Circle, who sang his personal power song while arranging a sacred circle of rocks and burning copal with sage to purify the air, during another sacred event in Mayan theology, the Pittsburgh public viewing of the Transit of the Planet Venus crossing the image of the Sun on 2004 June 8, on the observation deck of The Duquesne Incline. The City of Pittsburgh's only public observation session, with telescopes, of the 2004 Transit of Venus was sponsored by Friends of the Zeiss, a non-profit organization which promotes the history and preservation of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.

Special Thanks: Meridian Passage Blog of Francis G. Graham, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Kent State University.

Links of Interest --

More on the Winter Solstice:
Link >>> 

More on the Season of Winter:
Link >>> 

NASA Science News: "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday" (issued 2012 December 14, but written for the day after the Winter Solstice):
Link >>>

Classic "The Star of Bethlehem" Sky Drama, performed at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Science each Christmas season 1939 through 1990. This historic sky show talks about the historic relationship between the Season of Winter and the Christmas holiday (web site includes entire Planetarium Show Script):
Link >>>

"The Stars of Winter" Sky Drama, performed at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Science at the beginning of each Winter season (web site includes entire Planetarium Show Script):
Link >>>

Related Blog Post --

Mayan Temple Damaged in Tourist ‘Apocalypse’ Frenzy (2012 December 24):

Link >>>


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < >
Electronic Mail - < >
About the Author: < >
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Twitter: < >
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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < >
* Public Transit:
  < >

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