Episode 23: The Fake Story of Planet X
Recap: In the first of many episodes on the Fake Story of Planet X, we delve into the feasibility of a planet on a 3600-year orbit that was made famous in part by the late Zecharia Sitchin.
Puzzler: The first part I already did for you: if an object were on a 3600-year orbit around the sun, what would its semi-major axis be? Second, if the closest approach to the sun were Earth, what would its farthest distance be? And finally, if its closest approach were Earth, about how much time would it spend inside the orbit of Jupiter? Please show your math for full credit!
Q&A: Matt T. from Connecticut (USA) asks: "You mentioned in your latest podcast that the planets would be perturbed by an approaching brown dwarf. I have mentioned this myself in replies to conspiracy theories about Nibiru/Planet X and so far the CTs have always been too dim to ask the next logical question: who is tracking the planets that would allow any perturbations to be detected? My prolonged and varied search has not been able to answer this question. Any help would be appreciated.
The answer to Matt's question is that professional astronomers and space agencies don't really track planets. They assume they're going to be where they're going to be. If they weren't there, then when we send spacecraft there, they wouldn't get to the planet. We also use software that figures out where planets will be and points our telescopes to that location in the sky.
It's really more the amateur astronomy community that does this kind of work. Not tracks the planets trying to figure out if they're being perturbed, but they watch for occultations. This is when something like a star passes behind a planet. Such occultations are tabulated months in advance - and I've linked to two sources in the shownotes - and they require the planets to be exactly where predicted for them to happen exactly when they're scheduled to happen from your location on Earth.
If the planets were being shuffled around by an unseen Planet X, then these occultations would not happen exactly when planned, and systematic offsets would be reported and we would know about them.
- Additional Q&A Resources
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
Claim: A lot has been made over the years about Planet X. Way too much to go into in a single episode. Since I'm counting this towards my series of 2012 doomsday episodes, I'm going to specifically talk about the 3600-year-orbiting Planet X popularly known as Nibiru, and co-opted by some people to be known as Wormwood. Nancy Leider's Planet X will come in a future episode, as will Planet X approaching from the south pole, as will Gilbert Eriksen's.
The concept of a 3600-year-orbit planet is very much linked to the ideas promoted by the late Zecharia Sitchin. His idea was that his translations of ancient Babylonian tablets showed the ancients knew of a "twelfth planet" that was called Nibiru - or sometimes Marduk, and aliens from this planet - among other things - created the modern human race to use as slave labor to mine gold. Humans apparently are still slaves to the Leprechauns because we have a desire for gold and gold is my precious ...
There are two things I need to point out right away about this. First, even within Sitchin's mythology, Nibiru was not going to return until something like 2186. So people who claim that Sitchin said it would be here in 2012 are misreading his misreadings. But this is common in many pseudosciences is that people will just take whatever they want from someone and finangle it to their own purpose.
Another thing that bears pointing out here is that Sitchin was the only person to ever translate the Sumerian tablets this way. No one else did. All archaeologists and all other pseudoarchaeologists who worked on these tablets and cylinder seals and other things translate them to mean something completely different from what Sitchin gets. Now, I can't say that's proof that Sitchin was WRONG, but it should be a really big red flag.
Ignoring the biological, archaeological, and historical problems with this scenario, from an astronomy context we can look at the broader picture of Sitchin's claims relating to the planet Nibiru: This is purported to be a planet that is on a highly elliptical, 3600-year orbit, that takes it close to Earth when it is closest to the sun. Presumably the planet is Earth-like.
First off, one can use Kepler's Second Law of Planetary Motion to figure out the semi-major axis for this planet. If the orbital period of the object is expressed in Earth years, and the distance from the sun is expressed in Earth-Sun distances, then Kepler's Second Law can be expressed simply as P2=a3. Solving for a, a=P2/3. Putting in 3600 for P and we can calculate a distance of about 235 Earth-Sun distances.
That is an incredibly far distance, over 6 times as far as Pluto gets from the sun. It is actually very possible for a planet-like object to exist that far away, but the temperatures on its surface would be ridiculously cold for any kind of life to survive, let alone evolve.
Barring that, we still have the standing question of whether this object could exist that spends most of its time far away, but for a few years out of every 3600 it comes through the inner solar system and relatively close to Earth. The answer to this lies in the stability of the asteroid belt.
The asteroid belt is a confined system of hundreds of thousands of kilometer or larger -sized objects that is found between Mars and Jupiter. The belt is very stable. Almost all of the millions of objects within it are on well defined, stable orbits that will last for a very long time. This is almost impossible if, twice every 3600 years (once coming in, once going out), a planet-sized object passes either through it or close by. The gravitational disturbance caused by a planet-sized object would significantly disrupt the asteroid belt, causing collisions among its members and for it to be scattered over time.
A way to visualize this is to take a large bed and think of it as a tiny section of the asteroid belt. Now, place maybe a dozen marbles randomly on the bed. This is actually much closer than they are in the real asteroid belt if the marbles' size were to-scale, but let's continue. Now, take another marble, place it at one end of the bed, and flick it across. It may hit another marble, but overall it does not affect anything else. That's like a comet coming through.
Now take a bowling ball, place it at one end of the bed, and push it to the other. You are going to see an effect on the marbles on the bed. And this is with an object that is roughly 1000 times the mass of your original marble, whereas an Earth-like planet at least a million times the mass of a comet. 4.5 billion years into the solar system's lifetime, the asteroid belt would not exist anymore if it had seen a rogue elliptical planet pass through so frequently.
Another way to look at this is to look at the historic record. After all, if Nibiru or whatever you wish to call this object were on a 3600-year orbit, then it must have come by at least as recently as 1600 B.C.E. Some claim it happened in 705 B.C.E.
This is where we have an inherent contradiction in the 2012 mythos. Most place a huge emphasis on the skill of ancient civilizations to make astronomical observations. The Mayans had their amazing calendar and knew a lot about Venus' orbit. The Chinese have the oldest records of comets. Egyptians and Greeks were dominating the Middle East. All these civilizations had writing, culture, and science.
And yet, we are asked to believe that all of them missed a planet that came close to Earth. Not an asteroid streaking by, for which many records exist, not a comet appearing, for which many records exist, not a brief supernova, for which records exist, but a giant Earth-like planet. These civilizations could observe Saturn's motions through the sky, and yet they made no record of Nibiru.
I find that difficult to believe. So when you get right down to it, this is a story that sounds nice and interesting on its surface, but when you start to look into it even a little bit and see if it makes sense historically or physically, this 3600-year-orbiting Planet X disappears in a puff of red dust.
Provide Your Comments:
Comments to date: 2. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:
Huddy Brisbane Australia
10:58pm on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
I only just heard about this over the last week... I though how incredibile that we haven't seen it in the sky! Glad to hear ppl still think about these things logically and good example with the marbles / bowling ball on the bed.
7:40pm on Sunday, March 4th, 2012
that is the thing i'm not sure what its called but it keeps us from bnruing into the sun and the suns energy or sumthing that keeps us from rolling outer space they work together to make orbit and if so planet tyche rolls off to space that will not be possible unless all the planets roll of to space either crashing or going the hell where its going.If I'm wrong with astronomy please tell meONLY THE PEOPLE THAT BELIEVES THIS