The Astronomical Unit


This page last modified 1999 January 06

The so-called Planetary Alignment
of 2000 May 05

There has been a lot of twaddle spouted about a configuration of planetary positions on 2000 May 05. These images show the configuration:

Heliocentric view

Image 1. Heliocentric view

Geocentric view

Image 2. Geocentric view
(note absence of Uranus, Neptune, Pluto!)

From these images it is clear that:

  1. It is not an alignment, unless you consider about 25 degrees of angular separation to constitute "alignment".
  2. Most of the planets will not be visible owing to their angular proximity to the Sun, so it will not be the "spectacular sight" that some posters in astro newsgroups have suggested.

I can, however, confidently predict that this non-alignment will have the following effects on Earth:

  1. There will be rumours of the combined gravitational force of these "aligned" planets causing apocalyptic events on Earth. This will not happen — the increase in gravitational force on Earth is approximately equivalent to the increase which would occur if somebody blocks out your sunlight at a distance from you of about 2 metres — hardly apocalyptic!
  2. Similar planetary configurations occur every few decades and some past ones have been much closer to actual alignment. We are still here.
  3. Various charlatans and cranks will make fluffy noises about the effect of this non-alignment on Earth. In the unlikely event that any of these predictions are specific, non-trivial, and testable, they will be shown to be complete and utter twaddle.
  4. A small amount of woodland will be destroyed to provide paper for the books which charlatans, cranks and doom-mongers will peddle. Similarly there will be transfers of money to said charlatans, etc., as they queue up to exploit the event to its hilt on chat-shows and the like.