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Galactic Alignment

The galactic alignment is the key to understanding why the ancient Maya believed 2012 would be so transformational.

What is the Galactic Alignment?
The Galactic Alignment is the alignment of the December solstice sun with the Galactic equator. This alignment occurs as a result of the precession of the equinoxes.

Precession is caused by the earth wobbling very slowly on its axis and shifts the position of the equinoxes and solstices one degree every 71.5 years. Because the sun is one-half of a degree wide, it will take the December solstice sun 36 years to precess through the Galactic equator.

The precise alignment of the solstice point (the precise center-point of the body of the sun as viewed from earth) with the Galactic equator was calculated to occur in 1998 (Jean Meeus, Mathematical Astronomy Morsels, 1997).Alignment
Thus, the Galactic Alignment "zone" is 1998 +/- 18 years = 1980 - 2016. This is "era-2012." This Galactic Alignment occurs only once every 26,000 years, and was what the ancient Maya were pointing to with the 2012 end-date of their Long Count calendar. These are the astronomical facts of the matter. From a larger perspective, we can visualize the 2012 Galactic Alignment in the following way:

 

Galactic Centre-Milky Way Galaxy 

In the movement of the December solstice Sun toward the “Galactic Alignment” A marks the position where the December solstice Sun was in relation to the Milky Way about 3,000 years ago; B is the location 1,500 years ago; and C marks the “2012 Window,” when the December solstice Sun has converged, as a result of the precession of the equinoxes, with the exact centerline of the Milky Way, or Galactic Equator.
 
The Earth’s rotation is not fixed in space, but wobbles like a rotating toy top, so that the axis falls backward through the fixed stars, 1° every seventy-two years.

This movement is called “precession.” Since the Sun is ½ ° wide, the winter solstice Sun takes thirty-six years to precess through the region of the Galactic Equator.
 
Actually, Belgian astronomer Jean Meeus (Mathematical Astronomy Morsels, 1997) determined that the precise alignment of the winter solstice point with the Galactic Equator occurred already in 1998. Why then do so many people speak of the alignment of the winter solstice with the Galactic Equator as taking place on December 21, 2012, the end date of the Maya calendar? Since it takes thirty-six years for the Sun to precess through the Galactic Equator, 1998 can be seen as the midpoint for a period that extends from 1980 until 2016. Instead of speaking of “2012” we should speak of the “2012 Window,” in the sense that the precise end date of the Maya calendar, on December 21, 2012, falls within this thirty-six-year period centered on the year 1998.
 
Though we may find ourselves initially disappointed that the date that we formerly believed to be so precise in its identification by the ancient Maya is actually a thirty-six-year time span, consider the enormous span of time between alignments: The alignment of a solstice or equinox point with the Galactic Equator occurs only each quarter processional cycle, that is, every 6,480 years. The next solstice alignment will take place in 12,960 years. That the Maya calendar, dating back perhaps further in time than our own Christian calendar, could pinpoint this rare, unique, astronomical event with such precision is stunning. Might there be other calendars with similar foresight?