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Understanding Eclipses - Cosmic Eclipse

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, B.A., Sam Houston University, Huntsville, TX., has been writing cool and interesting articles for the internet world since 1995.

What is a Cosmic Eclipse?

A cosmic eclipse can actually be any galactic body casting a shadow on its neighbor when it is in a line between a light source and the neighboring body that will be in its shadow.

The definition of an eclipse (from


  Any obscuration of light

In order to define a "cosmic eclipse", we must indicate the specific thing that will be obscured. We must have three things: a light source; an interfering body and something to obscure.

So a cosmic eclipse might involve our Earth; plus an interfering body and light source, the sun; plus something for the Sun to eclipse or obscure, the galactic center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Oddly enough, this very eclipse will happen on the Winter Solstice of December 21, 2012.

Galactic Plane

Trying to find the galactic center of our Milky Way galaxy.
Trying to find the galactic center of our Milky Way galaxy. | Source

The Mayan Apocalypse

Well, it isn't really an "apocalypse" and it isn't related solely to the Mayans. The Mayans simply recorded this date on some rocks and pages of their books. It proves that the Mayans knew about "precession" way back in ancient times. It belongs in their calendar system, not in their fanciful prophecies.

The Solar system exhibits something called "precession". All this means is that the Earth, and any other cosmic body, wobbles and follows an elliptical path during its travels. Because the Earth doesn't follow a perfectly circular orbit or some sort of straight up and down tilting phenomena, we call this behavior "seasonal change", or "precession".

The Mayans calculated this precession relative to the galactic center of the Milky Way. So, every few thousand years, our sun eclipses the galactic plane, or center from the Earth's view. There is really nothing mystical about it, though many cultures believe it to be a magic celestial event.

Looking at the Galactic Center on Its Edge

Turn the Milky Way on its edge, and you will be able to see the center more clearly.
Turn the Milky Way on its edge, and you will be able to see the center more clearly. | Source

I survived the Mayan Apocalypse!

My whimsical design for the Mayan Apocalypse!
My whimsical design for the Mayan Apocalypse! | Source

Eclipsing the Galactic Center

Can you imagine primitive people believing that the Earth was the center of the universe? At one time, that is how they thought of the Earth. Now we know that the universe is unimaginably vast. We cannot actually see much beyond our own galaxy, and truly we cannot see very much beyond our own solar system.

As you can see, there is a whole lot of eclipsing going on in the universe! The Mayans and other astronomers have picked out certain reference points. These points are used to calculate the passage of what we call "time". Time is relative to who, or what, is doing the observing.

Certain eclipses make valuable marking points for time calculations. The Mayans and other astronomers can calculate the amount of time between specific eclipses. This December 21, 2012 is going to be one of those points.

It doesn't matter if the Sun actually eclipses the galactic center at all. In fact, this is a pretty fanciful description of what is actually happening. The Sun, Earth and Galactic "center plane" are simply lining up as they do in this particular type of eclipse that occurs naturally every 5,125.36 of our Earth years. That's it in a nutshell. Whether or not, this will bring about some mythical "change" or not is strictly conjecture.

Find Out the Real Truth!

Don't Spread Rumors About the Mayan Apocalypse!

Tell your family and friends that the "End of the World" prophecy is just a rumor. There is no scientific evidence that the alignment of the Earth, Sun and Milky Way center will cause a global catastrophe.

It's just another one of those cosmic events that naturally occur in our universe. It is a way to mark the passage of time.

It may be a beautiful, heavenly sight, but that is all it will be. So party if you must, but don't misunderstand the facts.

December 21, 2012

What is the significance of the 12.21.2012 date?

See results

© 2012 Lela

Comments - Hubbers unite - let me know if you want to join our group at Chichen Itza.

Submit a Comment

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    This upcoming eclipse is not understood clearly because the Mayans marked it down so long ago. So there is a lot of misunderstanding about this particular eclipse and how it relates to the precession of the equinoxes. I'm not an astronomer by any means. I just try to describe what is happening in layman's terms. Not easy when there are so many different viewpoints.

    Thanks, Integrity. Keeps me on my toes for sure.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    WHOA! I voted up! I am glad that you created this one. OOH! HAH-HAH!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    As I stated, it does not matter if the exact "center" of the Milky Way galaxy is being eclipsed. The Mayans began a long count calculation from this particular eclipse configuration over 5,125 years ago. They chose this eclipse configuration as a "timing" point for their long count calendar.

    What is being eclipsed is the "center" of the Milky Way galaxy. Our sun is coming between us and this hypothetical center. So the sun is doing the eclipsing from our viewpoint on Earth.

    As you say, there are two of these kinds of eclipses per year, but because of precession, each eclipse is slightly different. The 12.21.12 eclipse will be the same marker eclipse that the Mayans used 5,125 years ago.

  • scottcgruber profile image


    6 years ago from USA

    It would be helpful if you could explain exactly what "plane" we're supposed to be eclipsing. If you mean the Galactic Equator, you are correct that we will be crossing it - this happens every year on December 21 and June 21. The Galactic Equator is an imaginary plane drawn between the Sun and the center of the galaxy, so it is not surprising that we should cross it twice a year. We also eclipse the galaxy's axis of rotation twice a year, since it also crosses the ecliptic diagonally.

    However, we do not eclipse the center point of the galaxy - where the galactic plane and axis meet. This point, Sagittarius A*, is a few degrees south of the ecliptic, so it is not possible for the Earth and Sun to line up with it.

    Now there is the precession of the equinoxes, a cycle that changes the constellation the Sun is in at the vernal equinox. This cycle is 27,000 years, not 5,125.

    What exactly is it that we're eclipsing, or being eclipsed from?

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Thank you! I wish they were my pictures, but I will be taking some soon.

  • Patty Kenyon profile image

    Patty Kenyon 

    6 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

    Interesting Hub!!! Loved the Pictures!!! Awesome Job!!!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    It's really going to be a good time, I can feel it.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    I LOVE this!

    Lela this is clever, smart - and I do agree - nothing is going to happen on 12/21 except my party! LOL That will be the big boom!

    It's all very interesting and fun to talk about and speculate but yeah I think it is like all the other end of the world predictions. Just bogus ways for people to create excitement!

    Way up and everything - including funny!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Josh, you are welcome to join us, we are taking a trip to Chichen Itza to watch this big event!

  • josh3418 profile image

    Joshua Zerbini 

    6 years ago from Pennsylvania


    Enjoying the series, thank you! I voted all of the above!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    6 years ago from south Florida

    Thank you, Lela, for setting my mind at ease. Those Mayans were something else! Excellent cosmic eclipse tutorial, m'dear. Considering the Chichen Itza celebration - let me know the details please.


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