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Apocalypse Now?

Sunglasses won't help you see today's celestial spectacle.

Astronomers say the sun's glare will keep people on Earth from seeing the tight alignment of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the moon, reports Mark Nelson of CBS affiliate KOIN-TV. It is the tightest alignment of plantes since 1962.

For centuries, doomsayers have said such cosmic groupings spell the end of the world or a spate of disasters like earthquakes and floods. However, scientists will tell you not to hold your breath.

"The world hasn't ended any of the other times that the planets moved into what astronomers call conjunction, so there's no reason to think it will this time," the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said on its Web site.

"There may well be tsunamis, earthquakes or other natural disasters Friday, but they won't be caused by the other planets," NASA said.

Sky & Telescope's Alan MacRobert also poured cold water on any fears of high tides, intense earthquakes, or even the wobbling of the poles.

"Let's get real," he said in a statement. "Nothing like that is going happen."

Now, all five planets are clustered but on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. On May 17, the sunblocked planets will bunch up even closer, though the moon will have moved away by then.

Stargazers must wait two more years before another grand grouping of the planets visible to the naked eye takes place, said John Mosley, an astronomer at Griffith Observatory.

"May 2002 will involve all five planets plus the moon," he said Thursday. "It will be similar to the one happening now, except you'll be able to see it."

Planetary alignments occur when three or more celestial objects move into positions so that a straight line could be drawn through their centers. The definition is a bit loose: Planets that appear close together in the sky are considered aligned.

For centuries, doomsayers have predicted the end of the world whenever an unusual alignment occurs.

One book, ominously titled 5/5/2000: Ice, The Ultimate Disaster, predicts the alignment and increased solar activity will trigger a chain of events that will cause the Earth's crust to slide and poles to shift.

"It would be a geological Armageddon," author Richard Noone told CBS affiliate WGNX-TV. He predicts today will start two weeks of chaotic events and he's ready for it.

Noone, who lives in the northeast Georgia mountains, has filled his home with all the supplies that he might need to take him through a disaster. Though he admits to being a bit apprehensive, he plans to dine out with friends tonight, celebrating cinquo de Mayo at a Mexican restaurant.

Mosley dismisses the prediction and has included a quote from Noone's book to open a debunking planetarium show titled "Cosmic Catastrophe."

"If this were true, it would have happened alreay," he said.

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