Depending on whether you believe an ancient Mayan calender or not, December 21 could perhaps be the end of the world.
China in particular appears to be taking this seriously, with panic buying of candles reportedly sweeping across two counties in the province of Sichuan. Residents are believed to be worried about “three days of darkness” when the end of the world arives.
The Mayan apocalypse theory appears to have spread through China largely online. For example, today on Chinese social network Weibo the second trending topic revolves around the strange sight of “three suns” in Shanghai. While the phenomenon is apparently just the arc of solar flares, that hasn’t stopped widespread speculation by Chinese netizens that the three suns could be a sign of the coming apocalypse.
The situation has gotten so bad that Chinese state newspaper China Daily today published an article debunking the end of the world rumours.
“The sun will still rise on December 21. All reactions to the doomsday prophecy show a strong recognition of the crisis of human existence. However, these reactions should be rooted in science,” Wang Sichao, an astronomer at the Nanjing Purple Mountain Observatory, told the paper, before adding that the world will actually end in 5 billion years when the sun turns into a red dwarf and devours the earth.
“At that time, humans will have to be able to find a new home,” Wang explained.
UPDATE: A reader points out that the “three suns” over Shanghai appear to have been caused by a phenomen called “sun dogs”. From the Wikipedia page:
Sundogs are made commonly of plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds or, during very cold weather, by ice crystals called diamond dust drifting in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them with a minimum deflection of 22°. If the crystals are randomly oriented, a complete ring around the sun is seen — a halo. But often, as the crystals sink through the air they become vertically aligned, so sunlight is refracted horizontally — in this case, sundogs are seen.