The truth behind the rogue planet Nibiru
Apocalyptic prophecies can often find receptive ears. Sure, they’re sinister, but for various reasons some people actually take comfort from doomsday predictions. This does not, however, make these prophecies true. Many popular ideas about the end of times are based on flawed science and non-existent “evidence”.
Take the Nibiru Cataclysm. He may be one of the worst doomsday delinquents. Most believers say that Nibiru is a mysterious planet that orbits the sun, making a new journey around the star every 3,600 Earth years. And supposedly, Nibiru is on a collision course with us. The story goes that Nibiru will one day crash into our home world or, failing that, come close enough to trigger a massive epidemic of natural disasters that will end human civilization as we know it.
Do not worry; Nibiru is pure fiction. If it was real, there would be traces of its gravitational influence throughout the solar system. Such clues do not exist. Also, any planet with the putative orbit of Nibiru would likely have kissed our sun long ago, leaving humanity in peace.
In the beginning…
Nibiru entered public consciousness in 1976 with the publication of “The 12th Planet” by Zecharia Sitchin. It should be noted that Sitchin himself did not believe that Nibiru posed an immediate threat to humanity. On the contrary, he thought it was related to the creation of our species. Yes, there is a lot to unbox here.
The late Sitchin was a journalist and student of Sumerian cuneiform writing – ancient writings from Mesopotamia and Persia mostly on clay tablets. Somewhere down the line he became convinced that Homo sapiens are not the product of natural selection – at least, not entirely. According to his (questionable) interpretations of ancient Mesopotamian texts and inscriptions, early humans were bio-modified by aliens called Annunaki, who once colonized Southeast Africa.
Sitchin claimed that these beings originated from Nibiru, a previously unknown planet. His writings claim that Nibiru approaches Earth once every 3,600 years, then retreats into the depths of space.
“The 12th Planet” and Sitchin’s follow-up books have never been taken seriously by scientists or historians, but they have sold millions of copies nonetheless.
As for Nibiru, he was destined to become an object of fear. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the mythical planet was incorporated into a host of apocalyptic theories. One psychic predicted that Nibiru would fly over us in 2003, causing massive destruction along the way. Obviously, this did not happen. But Nibiru continued to grab the headlines.
Many supporters of the 2012 false apocalypse believed that Nibiru was going to strike Earth in December, confirming their beliefs about the Mayan Long Count calendar. More recently, in 2017, some Christian fundamentalists said that Nibiru or something similar was fast approaching and would herald the apocalypse soon.
Sayonara, solar system!
Let’s take the opportunity to try to reassure some. As a reminder, Nibiru would have an orbital period of 3,600 Earth years. At first glance, this claim seems plausible. After all, it takes the minor planet Sedna (which actually exists) an incredible 11,400 Earth years to complete a journey around our sun. But Sedna leaves plenty of room for the sun. Scientists use astronomical units, or AUs, to measure some of the vast distances in the cosmos. One AU is equivalent to approximately 93 million miles (150 million kilometers), which is the average distance between the Earth and the sun.
Even at her closest point to the sun, Sedna is 76 AU from the life-giving star, placing her well beyond Neptune, Uranus, and the much-maligned Pluto. Still, Nibiru is believed to make regular forays into the inner solar system, which is the realm of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
Using these criteria, Bruce McClure of Earthsky.org calculated that the farthest end of Nibiru’s orbital path would be about 469 AU from the sun. So, in the space of 3,600 years, poor old Nibiru would have to travel all the way from planet Earth to this very distant place – and vice versa. To stay on schedule, the planet would need a ridiculously narrow, almost stick-shaped orbit.
And it would move really, really fast. Passing close to Earth, we would expect Nibiru to have a breakneck travel speed of 26.1 miles per second (42.1 kilometers per second). It means trouble. A planet crossing at such a high speed – and along such an unstable orbit – would risk being thrown out of the solar system entirely. Goodbye, Félicia!
The seriousness of the situation
OK, so what if Nibiru stayed the course and maintained his weird orbit around the sun? Well, if that was the case, we would have found some revealing evidence.
Long before the discovery of Neptune in 1846, astronomers suspected that there might be a large planet in its general vicinity. Why? Because observers noticed that Uranus – which was first sighted in 1781 – continued to deviate from its expected orbit. Mathematicians speculated that it was because a neighboring planet influenced Uranus. Lo and behold, those predictions were correct. The mysterious planet turned out to be the gas giant we now call Neptune.
Likewise, if Nibiru were real, its influence on the other planets in our solar system would be evident. And if, as many apologists claim, Nibiru was the size of Jupiter or larger, this influence would be all the more evident as the massive planets exert a strong gravitational pull.
Today, all of the planets from Venus to Neptune orbit the sun on the same general plane (within a few degrees). But according to astronomer David Morrison, if a body similar to Nibiru’s passed Earth every 3,600 years, its gravity would have pushed at least some of these planets out of the plane, leaving them with steeply tilted orbital pathways. .
(Also, think about Earth’s natural satellite. Nibiru would probably have stolen our moon by now.)
Seeing is believing
Finally, there is the issue of direct observation – or, more precisely, its absence. Astronomers would be able to detect Nibiru several years before it reaches Earth. And several months before the Wayward Planet arrived, it would shine brighter than some of the stars currently visible to the naked eye. But no one has ever seen the prophesied planet, and there is no scientific reason to believe anyone will ever see it. The jury is out: Nibiru is just a hoax.