A celestial map tracing Earth’s annual alignment with the sun (gold line) and the Milky Way galaxy (blue) across the night sky. Twice a year these alignments overlap and the sun “crosses” the galactic equator (green line) with respect to Earth. In the 2012 era, this event has special significance for two reasons: 1) it will occur on the winter solstice, and, due to Earth’s axial wobble, will not do so again for another 26,000 years; 2) it will occur in the vicinity of Saggitarius, with the sun crossing into a dark area of the Milky Way known as the Great Rift.

A celestial map tracing Earth’s annual alignment with the sun (gold line) and the Milky Way galaxy (blue) across the night sky. Twice a year these alignments overlap and the sun “crosses” the galactic equator (green line) with respect to Earth. In the 2012 era, this event has special significance for two reasons: 1) it will occur on the winter solstice, and, due to Earth’s axial wobble, will not do so again for another 26,000 years; 2) it will occur in the vicinity of Saggitarius, with the sun crossing into a dark area of the Milky Way known as the Great Rift.