The Mayatime Report: Out with the old ...

The Mayatime Report: Out with the old ...

Dave Bloch

The "Maritime Report" shifts focus this week, as your reporter is down in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. My wife and I come down here every year at this time, but this year has a very special significance.

December 21, as I'm sure you know, is the long-awaited end of the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. (Let's get this straight - it is NOT the end of the world, and no Mayan ever said it was.) The calendar marks the end of a 5,125-year cycle, and the start of the next one. As I write this on Wednesday, the date is 12.19.19.17.18. Tomorrow that last number moves up to 19, and on Friday the whole thing rolls up, just like your car's odometer, to 13.0.0.0.0. It is a great cause for celebration, and we will be at the ancient Maya city of Chichen Itza when the sun rises over the Pyramid of the Sun on that morning.

You can celebrate this "super New Year" too! The Chabot Space & Science Center up at the top of the Oakland hills is having a full day of events on Saturday the 22nd. The "Begin the Baktun" festival will "explore the relationship of astronomy in Maya culture with a full day of festivities including, screenings of our planetarium show Tales of the Maya Skies and a Q&A session with the producer and director, a café conversation, dance performances, a sunrise hike, and Maya cuisine."

Full disclosure: I'm a volunteer School Group Guide up at Chabot, so I'm a fan. The "Tales of the Maya Skies" show is about the best way you will ever find to learn about Mayan mathematics and astronomy, both of which were incredibly advanced for their time. The full-dome, 360-degree planetarium show also immerses you in the beautiful Maya story of the creation of the underworld, the earth and the universe. The show was produced by Chabot and is now being seen in 50 planetariums around the world, so it's an accomplishment in which we of the East Bay can all really take pride.

So head up there! From the East End, take High Street all the way across Oakland until you run into the hills, then you snake your way up to Skyline Drive. From the West End, take the CA-24 to CA-13 south; get off at Joaquin Miller Parkway and go up to Skyline Drive.

If you've never been inside of Chabot's three big telescope observatories, be sure to do that as well! And if you have kids, bring them along for Bill Nye's Climate Lab and lots of other great stuff. Look for the blue-shirted volunteers and ask them anything; some of these folks are retired astrophysicists and have a wealth of knowledge to share.

Have a great solstice! I will get a story to you this weekend as soon as I can sit down at my laptop, process some pictures and access the Internet. (Hotel WiFi is often a challenge.)

For more information, visit http://chabotspace.org and http://mayaskies.org. For an aerial view of where I will be on Friday, click to http://mayaskies.org/mediamap.html .