Exposing PseudoAstronomy

May 12, 2012

Some Boring New Results Show We’re Still Not Going to Cross the Galaxy In December 2012


Introduction

Many œons ago, I wrote about how we’re not going to cross the galaxy’s equator in 2012. It’s one of those ideas about a physical galactic alignment that some people believe – we’re really actually physically going to cross the equator/plane of the galaxy in December 2012 (or a window around that date) and bad stuff is going to happen as a result.

I explained in that post that, no, we’re not. The latest data I had on-hand is:

[The sun] is about 35-70 light-years “above” it (since there’s no “up” in space, you could also say it lies below it). It is also currently still traveling “upwards” in the direction of the North Galactic Pole at a rate of 7-8 km/sec.

It is also not on a perfectly circular orbit relative to the plane of the galaxy, moving presently inward at a rate of 10-11 km/sec. Its rotational velocity around the center of the galaxy is about 200 km/sec.

New research announced this past week changes that.

We’re Still Okay

The new research comes from a Science paper by McComas et al. entitled, “The Heliosphere’s Interstellar Interaction: No Bow Shock.”

Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty details, the article talks about new observations by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft, also known as IBEX. The craft has been observing neutral atoms – meaning that they have no net electric charge – to understand the environment of the galaxy that the solar system is moving through.

The new result from this article that’s relevant to 2012 doomsday stuff is that the latest results from IBEX have revised the speed with which we thought the solar system was moving through the galaxy. We thought the sun was moving through the interstellar neighborhood at around 26 km/sec, but that value has now been revised downward to about 23 km/sec, or by around 11%.

NEW NASA DATA FROM NASA SCIENTISTS SEZ WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!

Okay, but seriously folks, this is not a huge huge deal in terms of this upsets everything we thought we knew about the universe. This is how science works. New data comes in that has incrementally increased our understanding of something. We’re still far from the plane of the galaxy, we’re still moving away from the plane of the galaxy, just we’re moving a little more slowly.

As in, we’re not moving more quickly in the other direction towards the galactic plane so that we pass through it in seven months.

Final Thoughts

That’s about all I have to say on this one. I found the paper a bit interesting and since it remotely applied to something that I’d discussed before, thought I’d share.

And it lets me muse about how people will use old data to support their pseudoscientific ideas and NOT revise them when new data comes out that differs (remember how 2012, back in 2004, was supposed to be a huge, ginormous, deadly solar max — something that’s still repeated often?).

Which incidentally leads me to mention that I’m going to start a new segment with the next episode of my podcast, a “new news relevant to previous episodes.” This’ll be one of those news items on the May 16th episode.

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2 Comments »

  1. I wondered how they worked that out. Does this mean that the Sun’s orbit will have to be revised as well, if it’s not going so fast?

    Comment by eyeonicr — May 13, 2012 @ 12:43 am | Reply

    • I don’t think the orbit itself needs to be revised, just the rate. For example, I think that the whole, “we go around the galaxy every 250 million years” number will now be more like “every 275 million.” Though, to an astronomer, those numbers are considered to be identical ;).

      And there are multiple ways to get this number. The numbers that I had quoted a few years ago (from the 2004 textbook) I’m pretty sure come from astrometry – very precise measurements of other stars from which we derive a net motion of our own star system. The method I talk about in this post (IBEX results) strikes me as probably more precise since other stars have such a small motion relative to us that the error bars are probably larger (this is me saying this without actually looking at any of the research, so take it with a mine of salt).

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 13, 2012 @ 11:34 am | Reply


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