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Perhaps you have already heard some doomsayers predict that a worldwide catastrophe will befall our planet on either April 6 or May 5 when some of the planets will be in alignment. The May 5 date is receiving most of the attention because 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.
As a prelude to this celestial event, on April 6 three of the planets—along with a crescent moon—will be putting on a skyshow in the southwestern night sky (in North America). With the naked eye, people in North America—on a clear night—should be able to see Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter just to the right of the crescent moon. Look to the southwest around 8:00pm and find the moon; the brightest nearby object (to the right) will be Jupiter, Saturn will be just above Jupiter, and Mars will be to the right of Jupiter.
The April 6 skyshow will be even more fascinating because even though this is only a crescent moon, a faint image of the entire moon will be outlined (the sunlight bouncing off the Earth will shine on the dark side of the moon; this Earthshine, however, may be difficult to see in urban, well-lighted areas.) On May 5, however, the planetary alignment will not be seen because of the brightness of the sun.
The May alignment has been receiving more of the attention because five planets will be in near (but not even close-to-perfect) alignment, and some believe that the gravitational force exerted by these planets will have a catastrophic effect on the Earth. Not to fear: 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 effect 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 past 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—the effects of 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 (and April 6)! 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.