Blog

Intro

What's New?

Bad Astronomy
TV

BA Blog
Q & BA
Bulletin Board
Media

Bitesize Astronomy
Book Store
Bad Astro Store
Mad Science
Fun Stuff
Site Info

Links
Search the site
Powered by Google


RELATED SITES
- Universe Today
- APOD
- The Nine Planets
- Mystery Investigators
- Slacker Astronomy
- Skepticality


Buy My Stuff
Bad Astronomy at CafePress.com
Keep Bad Astronomy close to your heart, and help make me filthy rich. Hey, it's either this or one of those really irritating PayPal donation buttons here.



Subject: How can I test what affect planetary conjunction is having on earth?

Date: Thu May 4 07:46:59 2000
Posted by Ashe Mock
Grade level: 10-12 School: Carter G Woodson
City: No city entered. State/Province: No state entered. Country: USA
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 957444419.As
Message:
Tomorrow on May 5th 2000 at 4pm several planets will line up on the opposite side of the sun. This will not be visible from earth. Is there any way to test what kind of effect this has on earth? I?m thinking the poles will be slightly affected so maybe using a compass or some type of magnet we might be able to detect some type of change.

The so-called 'planetary alignment' on May 5, 2000 was something of a media event, but little else. It's not hard to show mathematically that there would be no effects on the Earth; for example, see my own website page about the May 5 2000 alignment for a description.

However, that's just theory. How do you test the math? Some doomsayers predict a pole shift in the Earth. However, I have found those predictions to be vague: do they mean a shift in the Earth's rotation axis or magnetic field axis? These are two different beasts, and it's not clear which they claim will move. Either way, this is testable. First, the Earth's magnetic poles are well known, and they do drift. A sudden shift would be obvious and easily measurable by professional people that do such things. It might be harder to measure at home unless the shift is large. If it is, a compass will no longer point north. It will point to the magnetic north pole, which would have moved. Note that the magnetic north pole is not exactly aligned with 'true' north.

If the Earth's rotational axis moved, even a little, there would be fairly large ramifications. It would be measurable, for example, by a shift in position of Polaris (and all the stars too) in the sky. You could carefully watch Polaris and try to measure it's position. I suspect that any changes, no matter how small, would be immediately apparent to astronomers trying to point their telescopes!

Doomsayers also predict floods, earthquakes, mayhem, etc. It would be interesting to chart all earthquakes greater than a given strength and see if there was a significant peak on May 5. Such data would be on the web.

Bear in mind the alignment isn't like a light switch flipping on; it takes weeks and months to build. Has there been a growing number of quakes and floods? Is that number significant, or attributable to chance? This type of study is very difficult and painstaking to do.

What you'll find is that claims of doom are difficult to disprove: a chance tornado or flood, and bingo, the doomsayers claim victory (even if the axis doesn't shift). If nothing happens, well, they made their money and now all they have to do is wait for the next portent in the sky.



©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

This page last modified

MADSCI Q&A


Q&A 1996

Q&A 1997

Q&A 1998

Q&A 1999

Q&A 2000

Subscribe to the Bad Astronomy Newsletter!


Talk about Bad Astronomy on the BA Bulletin Board!