May 5—not the end of the world!

May 4, 2000

Perhaps you have already heard some doomsayers predict that a worldwide catastrophe will befall our planet on May 5 when some of the planets will be in alignment. On that day the moon, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will be clustered. Some prophets of doom are claiming that the resulting gravitational forces on Earth will be so powerful that large earthquakes and massive flooding will result. This is all nonsense.

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The planets are so far away from the Earth that even if they were to align perfectly, and even if each of their orbits were to be at their closest point to the Earth, their total gravitational pull would raise ocean tides by less than 1 millimeter! The strongest influence on Earth's tides is caused by its nearest object, the moon, which of course is far closer to Earth than the five planets that will be in alignment.

Over the centuries, planetary alignments have all passed harmlessly. They occur every 57 years on average. Back in 1524, when 5 planets were in close alignment, astrologers predicted floods, earthquakes, and other catastrophes, but, of course, nothing happened.

Some doomsayers might still argue that if massive flooding won't occur on May 5, earthquakes could result from the planetary alignment. An earthquake, however, could not result from such a meager gravitational pull (tidal action against a shoreline would exert more pressure, but even this will not cause any earthquakes because—as we have shown above—the effect on ocean tides will be negligible).


You can rest well on May 5! If you happen to be standing at a checkout line at your local grocery store and see a tabloid proclaim the end of the world—or hear radio broadcasters prophesying doom (you see, we also happen to be at the end of the millennium!)—just remember that these kinds of unfulfilled prophesies have been going on for centuries. A simple understanding of the effects of gravity shows that we have nothing to worry about come May 5.

If you are old enough to remember the planetary-alignment scare in 1982, you'll have already learned your lesson for May 5. Remember, too, that the God of the universe is in control, and He made the heavens and the Earth.

Published: 11 February 2006