By Keith Hunter
Over the recent period there has been a massive resurgence of
interest in the Maya of Central America, especially their calendar
systems that stretch back to ancient times. Indeed, their Long Count
calendar in particular has been the subject of intense scrutiny of late,
most notably from those researchers linked to the ‘New Age’ movement of
the recent era. That there is such extreme interest in this particular
Mayan calendar, and at this present time, is due to the following chain
1) The Maya, as with almost all ancient world cultures,
believed that the earth, as part of its natural cycle of being, lives
through a series of successive ‘world ages’, each separated by sudden
physical planetary upheaval.
2) According to modern day researchers, the Long Count
calendar system was established by the Maya in ancient times to forecast
or mark out the very transition points between world ages.
3) The primary recurring cycle of the Long Count calendar
has been found to consist of precisely 1872000 solar days (approximately
equal to 5125.36 years). And this period of time is held to be the very
duration of each successive world age.
4) From the study of Long Count inscriptions found at
various ancient Mayan settlements, evidence has been uncovered to
suggest that the Maya believed the current world age began on 11 August
3114 BC - Gregorian calendar. (Or, under the older Julian calendar, 6
September 3114 BC).
5) If the researchers are correct in their reconstruction
of the Long Count start-date, which would represent the end of the last
world age and the beginning of the present age, then the addition of
1872000 days to the time of 11 August 3114 BC, will place the end of the
current age at precisely: 21 December 2012 AD.
As one can imagine therefore, as the time for the completion of this present age is only a few years away, there is a great deal of interest in the Mayan Long Count calendar. With many thus wondering, were the ancient Maya essentially correct in their world age beliefs, and will there indeed be some sort of massive global geophysical event in 2012 AD to mark the transition to the next world age?
In the previous discussion of world-age doctrine, with the works of Berossos and Plato considered including also the Nag Hammadi texts, it was shown that the ancients were of the firm belief that any shift from one world age to the next would occur only on the occasion of certain very precise celestial configurations manifest in the heavens. The planets and the stars would thus determine the very transition points between successive world ages.
Now, with the rise to dominance of the GMT correlation theory setting the Long Count zero-date of 0.0.0.0.0. at 11 August 3114 BC, and thus also the current world age end-date at 21 December 2012 AD, the question inexorably emerged: Is there anything at all special about the celestial pattern of the heavens at the time of the two transition points said to bound the current world age? In the attempt to answer this question, as one might imagine, due to the nearness of the apparent end-date, researchers were far more inclined to study the celestial realm of this present era circa 2012 AD, than that of 3114 BC. With this focus, in the last decade of the millennium, an answer did indeed finally present itself.
In the early years of the 1990’s it was noticed by several individuals, apparently independent of one another, that during the next few years ahead, there would occur an intriguing and rather rare astronomical alignment. One that would involve the earth upon a future winter solstice point, the sun, and also the equatorial plane of the Milky Way galaxy – within which the solar system itself is located. Initially being nothing more than merely an unusual astronomical event of some note, the alignment pattern as identified was quickly appropriated as a potential solution to the Mayan Calendar ‘world-age ending’ problem.
Consequently, there emerged a serious hypothesis, that the noted configuration in question was deliberately targeted by the Long Count calendar of the ancient Maya. That is to say, that in establishing the Long Count circa 500 BC, the Maya of the time intentionally chose to synchronise the completion of 13 Baktun periods (NB: 1 Baktun = 144000 days. 13 x 144000 = 1872000 days – 1 complete world age cycle) with a singular astronomical event that would take place some 2500 years in the future, upon the precise date of 21 December 2012 AD: An alignment of three principal celestial characters: the earth at winter solstice, the sun, and the equatorial plane of the Milky Way galaxy.
This then, is the theory of the so called Mayan 2012 Galactic Alignment.
Before proceeding to a full evaluation, a comprehensive description of the noted alignment is necessary, so that one may understand the precise nature of the celestial configuration itself, as is theorised by some to be associated with the Mayan Long Count calendar.
To understand just what the noted galactic alignment is, one must first have an awareness of the actual position of the sun - and thus also the solar system as a whole - within the Milky Way, including the galaxy’s basic dimensions, and how the orbit of the earth about the sun is orientated towards the galactic plane.
Left, one can see a full external angled view of the Milky Way, with the approximate position of the sun marked out with respect to the centre of the galaxy. It should be noted that the whole galaxy itself is composed primarily of a vast multitude of stars, which are most intensely clustered towards the centre, which is the brightest part of the Milky Way. Classed as a spiral galaxy, the whole body of stars continuously rotates about its centre point. The overall diameter of the Milky Way is some 100,000 Light years. To put this into perspective, one may note that the mean distance between the earth and the sun is about 93 million miles; commonly referred to as an Astronomical Unit (AU).
One light year is the distance covered by light in the course of one year, being equal to about 5878464 million miles. Therefore, the distance length of 1 light year equates to about 63200 Astronomical Units (AU).
For the most part the Milky Way is essentially rather flat throughout. The central concentration of stars, generally referred to as the ‘nuclear bulge’ – the brightest part of the galaxy – extends to a radius of about 20000 light years from the centre (40000 LY being its full diameter), with a ‘north-south axis’ diameter of about 30000 light years. Beyond the extended distance of the nuclear bulge the actual thickness of the galaxy rapidly drops off to only about 1000 light years on average, stretching even thinner towards the outer edge.
The sun itself, which is but one of many millions of stars that form the Milky Way, is located some 28000 light years from the centre (8000 LY past the edge of the nuclear bulge), in a part of the galaxy where the actual thickness is only on the order of about 700 light years. Moreover, it should also be noted that the sun, and thus solar system as a whole, is a significant distance from the actual equatorial plane of the Milky Way, being some 20 light years deep within what may be called the ‘southern’ hemisphere.
Though not located precisely upon the equator of the galaxy, the solar system is sufficiently close such that in looking towards the centre of the Milky Way, one may perceive a relatively uniform and symmetrical distribution of stars that form the main band of the galaxy:
With respect to the Milky Way star band, one may note that the orbital path of the earth about the sun, from a visual perspective, appears to ‘cross over the equator of the galaxy’ at about 60 degrees. In the diagram pictured (below), the observer is positioned at the centre of the sun looking towards the centre of the Milky Way. The ecliptic line as marked is of the path taken by the earth in the course of a single year in orbit of the sun. The galactic equator, as also marked, is a line of ‘best fit’ that places half of the stars in one hemisphere and half in the other, as viewed from the centre of the present solar system. It is a line determined purely by statistical methods. The marked point (<) of the Milky Way is the exact centre of the galaxy:
Of the basic configuration as detailed, with reference to the
crossing point of the earth ecliptic line and the galactic equator, one
may note then that visually, there will be an alignment of the earth,
the sun, and the galactic equator twice every year. In one instance, the earth will be between the sun and the galactic equator, and in another (exactly 6 months later) the sun
will be between the earth and the galactic equator. The 2012 AD
alignment as is said to be associated with the Long Count calendar is of
exactly this type, being of the latter stated order: Earth > Sun
> Galactic Equator, but critically, with one very important
additional factor, which indeed makes the entire arrangement far more
complex and infrequent: The 2012 AD conjunction is one that involves the
earth, sun, and the galactic equator, specifically at a time when the earth is at the winter solstice (northern hemisphere) point of its orbit,
at a seasonal extreme. Now, an event of this sort certainly does not
occur every year, but rather once only every 25800 years. And this is
due to a very subtle celestial motion: precession.
In astronomy it is an observable fact that all background stars have an apparent yearly orbit about the earth of some 365.256363 days, known as the sidereal year. This is the length of time they require to accomplish one complete cycle with respect to the earth orbit. This of course is in marked contrast to the time taken for the earth to orbit about the sun with respect to its ‘seasonal markers’ i.e. solstice or equinox points. In this instance, the noted separation time is that of the tropical year of 365.2421840 days. Consequently, due to this time discrepancy between the two different types of earth year, there is a continuous ‘slippage’ of all of the seasonal markers of the earth’s orbit, against the whole background star field outside the solar system – which includes all of the stars that make up the Milky Way band. This phenomenon, called precession of the equinoxes, is critical to understanding the 2012 galactic alignment.
As was noted previously, according to scholars of this present age the Maya in all likelihood established the Long Count some time circa 500 BC, with the position also advanced (by some) that as a result of observations carried out during such ancient times, they deliberately set up their calendar to ‘count down’ to a future conjunction of the earth at winter solstice, the sun, and the galactic equator. It would be well then to examine the sky as would have been evident at this time:
As can be seen, with a view from the centre of the earth upon the
winter solstice of 500 BC, looking towards the Milky Way (NB: daylight
is ‘turned off’ in these images), one can see the sun markedly off to
the west of the galactic equator. From this initial configuration, the
key thing to realise is that due to precessional ‘slippage’, with every
year that passes, with the earth returning to its next successive winter solstice point, the sun will appear to move eastwards against the seemingly fixed background galactic star field. The actual rate as an angular sweep
is determined precisely by the difference between the sidereal year of
365.256363 days and the tropical year of 365.242184 days, which
translates into approximately 50.29 seconds of arc per year. From the
time of 500 BC, the full angular distance as would need to be covered to
place the sun on the exact crossing point of the ecliptic and galactic
equator, in conjunction with the earth upon a future winter solstice, is
approximately 34 degrees and 35 minutes of arc. It is precisely this
angular distance that is covered right up to the date of 2012 AD.
The further image shown below details the successive positions of the sun as viewed from the earth upon the winter solstice point of its orbit, at approximately 1000 year intervals, building up to the 2012 conjunction:
The final configuration as is thus manifest in the sky in 2012 AD details then a most exacting alignment of all 3 principal celestial characters: The earth at winter solstice, the sun, and the galactic equator (and in this stated order):
In view then of the above alignment, as is surely manifest in this
present era, it would be well to state in summary the critical
assumptions that underlie the proposal that the Mayan Calendar Long
Count cycle was indeed established specifically to mark the noted
celestial configuration in 2012 AD:
1) During the 1st Millennium BC – beginning possibly
earlier that this? – the Maya became aware of the phenomenon that is
2) Through continual observation of the sky they derived a
fairly refined value for the angular rate of precession i.e. the
apparent rate of change or movement of the sun set against the
background stars of the Milky Way.
3) The Maya did a forward calculation to determine the
time when the sun would conjunct with the galactic equator, when the
earth itself was positioned at a future winter solstice point (northern
hemisphere) in its orbit.
4) Some time circa the 1st century BC they established the
Long Count calendar in stone, using a primary cycle of 1872000 days,
with the end date of the cycle (the completion of 13 Baktuns of 144000
days each) synchronised precisely with the galactic conjunction as
The above points thus capture what are the underlying assumptions of what is the theory of the 2012 Mayan Calendar Galactic Alignment.
Proceed to Part 6: