CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- What are you planning for December 21? There are a lot of people focused on that date because they believe the world is going to come to an end.
The hype is driven mostly by the internet and that date, December 21, comes from the Maya calendar that many people believe is somehow able to predict the apocalypse right down to the exact year, month and date.
Dr. Angela Rajagopalan is an art history professor and expert on the Maya at the UNC Charlotte.
"We like to place the apocalyptic views on the Maya culture but they are not really there," Dr. Rajagopalan said.
The Maya calendar, she says, was broken into long cycles. The one that ends next month lasted over 5,000 years.
"Although it was very long—thousands of year—it was still cyclical—one that ended and then would begin again," she added.
She says the end of the cycle is just that and not the end of the world. Not Doomsday.
Still the belief persists that the end is near.
NASA, the space agency, has even set up a website and thousands of people have written in with questions about the end of the world, and many of them are truly afraid.
Dr. David Morrison is a senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute and it is his job to try and calm those fears.
"People will say, 'I'm 11 years old, I can’t eat, I can't sleep. I don't want to die. Others will go so far as to say ‘I'm contemplating suicide,’" Morrison said.
There is no way, Morrison says, that a Maya calendar or anyone's calendar can predict the end of time.
He has also had questions about a huge rogue planet that is supposed to be on course to slam into the earth.
"If there were such a planet now it would be the brightest thing in the sky after the sun or the moon. Any of the seven billion people on earth could look up and see it," said Morrison.
And as for those who believe that a galactic alignment is coming next month and that will spell doom for the planet, Morrison said. "The world doesn't align with the galaxy. The galaxy doesn't align with anything else, so that is a mystery to me."
What, then, drives people to believe what no reputable scientist is worried about?
"They are somehow tuned to be afraid of the cosmos. I can't understand it. It's very scary," Morrison said, shaking his head.
Morrison said he looks forward to December 21 because when the world keeps on turning he will be done answering questions about doomsday.
"The good news is that you can relax. The world is not going to end on December 21, 2012,” said UNC Charlotte Dr. Rajagopalan. “Don't sell your 401K, and as I tell my students, 'Yes, you do have to study for the final.'"