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The Photon belt (aka The Rings of Alcyone) is a nonsensical idea carried by some New age and pseudo-scientific groups. The central belief is that the Earth will soon pass through an immense ring of photons which are orbiting the Pleiades star cluster, or specifically the largest star Alcyone. When the Earth passes through this belt either the world is going to come to an end, or humanity will be elevated to a higher plane of existence, depending on the source. In the late 2000s the concept closely associated itself with 2012 apocalypse groups.
This idea was first described in 1950 by German scientist Paul Otto Hesse in his book Der Jüngste Tag[note 1]. Since that time several others have taken up the mantle of the photon belt. Notably no serious scientists, but a fair number of authors, UFO crackpots, and even a few claiming to channel communications with extraterrestrials.
Numerous dates have been put forward for when the Earth would pass into the photon belt, ranging from 1992 to the most recent failed prediction of 2012. Various explanations have cropped up (naturally) for each of the failed predictions. Regardless, our transit through the photon belt is supposed to take approximately 2000 years, so the excuses can't hold up forever.
The entire concept of the photon band is absurd on the face of it, once you consider what is actually being claimed. Neither is any evidence presented for the bold claims and assertions made. Among the myriad problems with the concept are:
- No unexplained "photon phenomenon" has ever been reported or confirmed anywhere near, or in conjunction with, the Pleiades cluster by a credentialed astronomer.
- Photons are the quantum particles responsible for many types of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, including light. In order to bend photons (and light) into an orbit around an object requires a gravitational pull only achieved by black holes, and any orbit of photons around such a mass could only occur very close to the black hole (1.5 times the Schwarzschild radius). Thus any passage of the Earth through such a photon band would closely coincide with its destruction due to the tidal forces of the black hole. And even that scenario is incredibly unlikely, as the orbit of any photon around a black hole is fundamentally unstable, with the tiniest perturbation (such as the photon minutely interacting with another particle) causing it to very quickly either go into an escape trajectory or fall into the event horizon. The probability of a whole band of photons maintaining such an orbit for any period of time is ludicrously low.
- The Pleiades cluster is at least 400 light years away and currently moving away from, not towards, us. This distance is much greater than the sphere of gravitational influence for the Pleiades cluster.
- See the Wikipedia article on Pleiades Cluster.
- Is the earth about to enter the Photon Belt, causing the end of life as we know it?, The Straight Dope
- The Pleiades and our own Photonic Belt — Whackjob explanation of the photon belt concept.
- Not to be confused with the photon sphere, which is a surface defined by the gravity of a black hole, below which there are no stable orbits.
- Translation: "The Last Day" or "Judgement Day"