Deer Valley High teacher Jeff Adkins Sherry LaVars/Staff File)
Deer Valley High teacher Jeff Adkins Sherry LaVars/Staff File)

ANTIOCH -- Mark your calendar: Friday will be just another day and the world will still exist when you wake up the next morning.

Doomsday prophets who have been predicting that the world will end on Dec. 21 might be disappointed with a presentation at Antioch's Deer Valley High School on Thursday, when several experts in astronomy, geology and archaeology will debunk the notion while explaining what the Maya people of Mesoamerica really meant with the calendars they carved in stone more than a millennia ago.

Dubbed "The Mayan Nopacalypse," the event will be from 4 to 7 p.m. in Room 511 on the campus at 4700 Lone Tree Way.

Friday, which also happens to be the shortest day of the year, is the last date on the Mayan calendar, which scientists say some have misconstrued as a sign that the Earth will be destroyed.

The presentation will kick off with a planetarium show in which astronomy teacher Jeff Adkins will show where the eight major planets in this solar system will be in relation to each other on Dec. 21. Contrary to what alarmists are saying, they will not be aligned, Adkins said. In fact, it will take tens of thousands of years for them to come together and even then they won't form a straight line, he said.


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But even if they did, it wouldn't matter, he added; the combined gravitational pull of the smaller planets is less than that of the largest -- Jupiter -- and that celestial body is so far from Earth that the force it exerts is all but undetectable compared with that of the moon.

A video titled "Doomsday 2012 and Cosmophobia" will follow at 4:30 p.m., featuring a presentation by Mark Van Stone. He earned a doctorate in Mayan hieroglyphs and has written a book on what science has to say about the Mayan prophecy for 2012.

Mayan culture will be the focus of a talk by Heather Bradford, who studies human skeletal remains recovered from archaeological sites in the Southwest, Mexico and Central America.

At 6 p.m., astronomer Bryan Mendez of UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory will discuss what the Maya understood about the stars and planets.

Mendez, who holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics, has studied the speed at which nearby galaxies are moving away from Earth.

The evening will wrap up at 7 p.m. by peering through telescopes at Jupiter, the only easily visible planet at that time of day.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.

If you go
What: 'The Mayan Nopacalypse"
When: 4-7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Deer Valley High School, Room 511, 4700 Lone Tree Way, Antioch
Info: astronomyteacher@mac.com or 925-776-5555, ext. 7509
Cost: Free