The year 2012 is going to be a momentous time to be alive on planet Earth, at least according to those who believe that's the year the world will end or transform. Some people believe a great religious event will take place, but others point to alleged evidence -- such as predictions by ancient timekeeping traditions and modern scientific astronomical cover-ups -- as the eventual causes of our planetary demise or great renewal. It's those in the latter category, the ones looking to the stars, who need to do a little more legwork.

In order for the world to "end" based on these predictions -- or, if not end per se, coincidentally transform in some miraculous manner -- something major needs to go down, and theories abound as to what'll occur. Will a mysteriously shrouded planet come whipping through the solar system and cataclysmically smack into us like a cosmic game of croquet? Will colossal solar flares rocket out from the sun and envelope the Earth until it's little more than a charred husk of a planet? Or perhaps, the planets -- and indeed the entire mighty Milky Way galaxy -- will align in such a way as to catastrophically affect life on our tiny home turf?

Now granted, there's a lot we as humans don't know about the exact workings of the universe, and no one can be 100 percent certain what the future will hold, but blowing several catastrophic holes in this sort of theory is pretty simple stuff. Get the not-so-sensational and decidedly-less-deadly details on planetary alignments on the next page.