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Episode 80: The Fake Story of Planet X, Part 7 - Mark Hazlewood

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Recap: In yet another edition of "Fake Planet X" stories, this time I talk about Mark Hazlewood's claims surrounding his failed prediction of a 2003 approach. Hazlewood borrowed a lot from Nancy Lieder (she claims he copied her), but he is much more conspiratorial. This episode focuses more on the story of what happened and his claims rather than delve too much into why everything he claimed was wrong.

Puzzler for Episode 80: On its current orbit, could Mars ever appear as large as our Moon? If not, why? And, if not, how close would it need to be to Earth to appear as large as the Moon?

Answer to Puzzler from Episode 79: The longer answer can be done in a simple, numerical way and then a fudge factor can be added. You can start with introductory physics equations of motion. These are called "kinematic equations." You can use them to figure out how fast the initial velocity is for a person jumping on Earth to reach a height of about 2.5 m. You have to assume a timespan over which the jump takes place -- I assumed 2 seconds. You then get an initial velocity of 11.5 m/s. Then, go back to the kinematic equations, and replace Earth's gravity with Mars', which is about 1/3 Earth's. Assuming that initial velocity, and 2 seconds again, you can calculate that the person would have jumped to a height of about 14.5 meters, or 48 feet. Similarly, you can do the same thing for jumping a distance of 9 m, and doing the math you get around 21 m on Mars, or nearly 69 ft. If you assume different times over-which the jump took place, you'll get different values, but the end result is the same -- you can jump higher and farther on Mars than you could on Earth, everything else being equal.

The fudge factor comes in when you consider things like, as you're in the act of jumping, before your feet leave the ground, your muscles don't have to work as hard to overcome gravity on Mars as they do on Earth, so you could probably leave the ground with a greater velocity. However, I don't think this is enough to change the results by too much, and you'd need to change them by around a factor of 5-10 in order to get the kind of results that John Carter did in the movie. Therefore, the short answer comes back: No, the movie did not accurately portray the human jumping ability on Mars. Unsurprisingly.

Q&A: There was no Q&A for this episode.

Additional Materials:


Claim: Mark Hazlewood wrote two books, and in the first one he claimed that Planet X would swing by and do bad stuff to Earth in May 2003. After that didn't happen, he wrote another book that claimed it still would happen but didn't give a date.

I realize that you may be thinking that this sounds an awful lot like Nancy Lieder. I'll get to that in a bit. You also may be wondering why I would devote another episode to something like this. The reasons are varied, but the main ones are that, while there's comparatively little astronomy that goes into Mark's claims when compared with Nancy's, there's a more interesting narrative and story to tell here than what we got with Nancy Lieder, and it's much more conspiracy-based. I find that interesting, and hopefully most of you will, too. ... And there will be some Coast to Coast clips. Well, a lot ... For those of you who might be new to the podcast, there usually aren't quite this many.

Basic Claims of Planet X

I normally like to start with background information, then the claim, then applying the background to the claim. That gets really to the what we know and how we know what we know model that I really like from AstronomyCast. But, I'm now on the Fake Story of Planet X, Part 7, and if you've been listening for awhile you definitely have enough background. If you're a new listener, you should go back to Episode 13 for the real story of Planet X.

Mark Hazlewood's claims don't have much to do with the real science of a possible Planet X, however. When describing a solar system object, there are a couple things that we want to know: Mass, diameter, orbit, and bulk composition. That's really the basic, standard info that kids memorize for tests in third grade. Mark Hazlewood's version of Planet X, as he describes it, has a mass of 3-5 times Earth, and that it's very dense. He never gives us a diameter. He does say that it's a brown dwarf star, which should mean that it's mostly hydrogen, Jupiter-like in composition, between 13-79 times the mass of Jupiter, and a diameter a few times the size of Jupiter. Hazlewood also claims that the planet is on an elliptical orbit that takes it from far away from the sun to between Earth and the Sun, though he claims that the perihelion - closest solar approach - varies from one orbit to the next. Orbital period he claims is 3600 years, or "probably closer to 3650 years, average."

I really could end the podcast in the next few minutes: I don't have to go beyond this basic information to show that he's wrong, or at least very inconsistent.

First is the mass. If the object is a brown dwarf, by definition, it is a failed star, so less than 80 times the mass of Jupiter (the Sun is around 1000x the mass of Jupiter), but more than 13 times the mass of Jupiter. Jupiter is around 317.83 times the mass of Earth. So, mass-wise, it can't be both 3-5x the mass of Earth and 13-79 times the mass of Jupiter -- that's impossible, and it's a discrepancy of over a factor of a 1000.

This would also mean it's a brown dwarf. Not a planet. If I were reading this guy's stuff on a random forum, my knee-jerk conclusion would be that he is throwing together a word salad of astronomy terms without knowing what they mean but trying to sound smart.

Then there's the orbit. I'll refer you to Episode 23 for why a planet with a 3600-year orbit is as close to a "this doesn't exist" certainty as we can say in science. Probably my favorite reason is the long-term stability of the asteroid belt which is not possible if a massive object were going through it twice every 3600 years.

But, his twist is that the object changes perihelion - again, closest approach to the sun - between orbits. He doesn't come directly out and say that, but when asked how close it would get to the sun, in interviews he responded by saying that "this time" it would be between Earth and the Sun. I interpreted this to mean it changes. That's not impossible, but it all has to do with what's acting to change the orbit. A large planet like Jupiter or Saturn could certainly alter the orbit of an object 3-5 times the mass of Earth. But there's no way it's going to alter the orbit of an object the size of a brown dwarf. Rather, the brown dwarf would alter the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, and the other planets it passes near to. That means that its orbit should be relatively stable, but the other solar system objects -- you know, the ones that we actually observe on stable orbits -- wouldn't be. In other words ... [gravity clip]

This brings up a bit of a side-note on the Planet X story, one that is more Mark's than Nancy's: He claims that Planet X is actually an object that orbits like a pendulum between the Sun and the Sun's binary companion star: [Coast to Coast AM clip, January 16, 2002, starting 3:26]

"Planet X is, uh, um, Roman numeral number 10, which would mean the 10th planet in our solar system. Uh, um-- it orbits around, not just uh-our sun, but our sun's dark twin which lies towards Orion. In my book, I have a diagram, uh um, 1987 edition, of a scientific uh encyclopedia that shows where that dark sun is, that dark star, and Planet X, or the tenth planet, right between it. So instead of orbiting around one sun or the other, this-this rogue planet, failed star, uh brown dwarf if you will, uh simply goes back and forth in a pendulum-like orbit, so that um, ... for at least three years."

He also claims that this companion star is the sun's twin and that it's about 20 A.U. out -- in other words, in the orbit of Uranus. Yes, a star, that only Mark Hazelwood knows about plus some top-secret NASA people and some Russions that I'll discuss in a bit, is around the orbit of Uranus, but amateur astronomers can't see it. A star.

It's been awhile since I did some math, so I figured it was about time. The absolute magnitude of a brown dwarf star is highly variable, but you can estimate it to be around 24ish. This is the brightness at 10 parsecs away, about 32 light-years. The magnitude scale is where negative numbers are bright, positive numbers are faint, and it's a log scale so a change of 2.5 magnitudes is a factor of 10x change in brightness. 6th magnitude is the faintest you can see from a dark sky site with the unaided eye. For those of us at TAM right now, the brightest you can probably see from here is around 0th magnitude if you're on the strip.

Anyway, it's faint. But, you can use an equation called the "distance modulus" to figure out how bright it would appear at any distance. Plug 20 AU into the equation and you get an apparent magnitude of -1. That would make it around the 5th brightest object in the sky. Visible during the day if you had a telescope. Extremely bright at night. And, that's just in visible light -- it would be even brighter in the infrared. And, it would also reflect sunlight on top of the light that it's emitting from it being hot. And, a friggin' star near the orbit of Uranus is going to severely alter the orbits of all the planets, yet we don't see that. I'll talk more about this in the Binary Sun upcoming episode, but in the meantime, again, this isn't possible. There's no way something like that could be kept a secret.

Still on this aside, he also has some other interesting ideas about this "star" and Planet X: [Coast to Coast AM clip, January 16, 2002, starting 11:35]

"It's headed towards being pulled faster and faster by its own gravity and the sun's gravity towards it you know at the last minute it veers away because - I don't know if you're aware that just within the last year or so of uh, the new theory of gravity is just a particle flow in both directions and that's uh what will keep it from hitting the sun, it'll just sail on by, and it slows it down at the last moment, uh, and uh before it passes by."

If that sounds like Nancy Lieder from Episode 76, it pretty much is.

Accusations of Copying Others' Claims

With that said, before we go any further, I think it's important to address the claims made against him by other Planet X proponents: Mainly, that he stole their work. In particular, Nancy Lieder claimed this and was very angry about it. In fact, if you do an internet search for Mark Hazlewood, the first page is Nancy Lieder's saying that he stole her work. Even her Zeta aliens she channels but claims doesn't channel said that Hazlewood copied Nancy's ideas.

Art Bell, in his 2002 interview - though in George Noory's 2004 interview with Hazlewood, Hazlewood claimed it was a 2001 interview ... he was wrong ... anyway, in Art's 2002 interview, this issue was raised. Art backed him up, and Mark claimed that his book cites over 100 different people for their information, including Nancy and Sitchen, remote viewers, and prophets such as Gordon Michael Scallion. SkepDic (Skeptic Dictionary) has a nice article on Gordon Michael Scallion if you're interested. I'll just mention that according to Scallion, Denver, CO should have been beachfront property by 1998. Strange that I can't see the Pacific Ocean from my apartment.

As an independent observer, I have to agree with Nancy. As I was listening and re-listening to about 4 hours of Hazlewood's interviews, next to half of my notes of various parts of his claims, I added a note that this was nearly identical to Nancy Lieder. Phil Plait in his page on Hazlewood noticed the same thing and mentions Nancy's claims against him. Hazlewood later shot back claiming that Nancy was a disinformation agent, but that's an issue I want to talk about in maybe 10 minutes.

Alleged Evidence

Mark cites absolutely no evidence for his claims. Well, no real evidence.

The evidence he does cite, besides the writings of Nancy and Sitchen and others, are that earthquakes were increasing as Planet X approached (they weren't), volcanic activity was increasing as Planet X approached (it didn't), and that the climate was warming due to it's approach (it is, but that's unrelated). He also stated several times that he was spiritually lead to this conclusion, which is also why he wasn't afraid of putting it out there, because he would be made into a martyr if killed by the MIB (Men in Black).

Unlike Nancy, Mark was very conspiratorial. As I said, I want to get more into that in a bit, but at this point in the episode, the conspiracy manifests as his evidence. For example, he heard from a friend who heard from a friend who works at NASA that NASA knows about it, it's definitely coming, though they don't know if it will cause a pole shift or not. Or there's also this from his 2004 interview: [Coast to Coast AM clip, April 1, 2004, Hour 2, starting 10:08]

"You know, I got to talk with someone else who told me that he got to view this planet via a live Hubble linkup with twenty-- with 24 others during a hush-hush meeting, the only reason he called me 2-3 days afterwards, this happened May 23, 2002, is because he would not have drew on his connections -- he is also a triple doctorate like Father Malachi Martin -- uh, and wanted to thank me, and let me know without a shadow of a doubt that it's there that it's incoming. Um, he said that the people were calculating its speed at the time thought it would be here in 3.5 years. Since then, it has uh, speeded up and slowed down (according to this man who won't allow me to say his name, and I won't), uh, I've already gotten him in somewhat- in some hot water from disclosing this, anyway, according to McCanney, that's exactly how an object like this should act, uh once it's entered into the solar field which goes out some 10 times beyond uh, uh, the orbit of Pluto."

There's so much in there to dissect that shows he has no idea what he's talking about. The references to James McCanney will be addressed in a future episode, currently planned for late September. It's the broader idea that he's relying completely on hearsay for his evidence, and that hearsay doesn't make sense -- specifically the claim about a "live Hubble linkup" is what I want to address at this point. It makes no sense. He's acting as though Hubble has, effectively, an eyepiece. Or a webcam in place of an eyepiece where you can get some sort of live continuous stream of data. It doesn't work that way. It has a few cameras, all with varying pixel scales and that operate in different colors of light with different filters. There are numerous calibration steps for every separate pointing of Hubble, and most exposures last minutes to hours. This concept of a live linkup to view things as though you're at the telescope looking through the eyepiece is absurd and shows he doesn't know what he's talking about.

But, as with Nancy, Mark was very adamant in 2002 that Planet X would be visible to everyone by the summer of 2002, and it would swing by in May 2003 ... just when Nancy claimed it would come: [Coast to Coast AM clip, January 16, 2002, starting 35:14]

"I would have never written this book if I didn't know for sure. Okay, but that knowing is my knowing, and each person has to find their own individual knowing."

What Happened After the No-Show in 2003

In what I promise is the last Coast to Coast clip of this episode, after his planet DIDN'T show up in 2003, the back-tracking began. Here is a roughly 2.5-minute exchange that took place in April 2004 where he tries to explain why he was wrong ... if you don't want to listen to it, fast-forward by 2 minutes 27 seconds: [Coast to Coast AM clip, April 1, 2004, Hour 2, starting 3:45]

GN: "Were you one of those who thought it would be around, in uh, May 15 or so of last year?"

MH: "Uh yes, I fell for that disinformation admittedly. Uh, sometime in spring or summer I thought it was gonna come. I didn't wake up to this fact until the fall of 2002, when my colleague, Prof. James McCanney, told me that uh, a popular disinformation site had fabricated pictures of Planet X, uh that were taken with a large professional 'scope, not like a-- not with a smaller telescope that they said they were, and they had, uh, some NASA server codes that were hidden on them. Uh, this is from a lady who claims that she speaks to aliens [Nancy Lieder]--"

GN: "Yeah, well we know her."

MH: "Yeah well uh-- see, when I first was exposed to this subject matter, I really wasn't uh, well familiar with all the intricacies of what was happening, why it was happening. So I simply took her at face-value in the beginning and didn't understand her role as a disinformation agent attacking me and everyone else who uh had some of the same information, which was kinda odd I thought at the beginning, but then finally, after much listening to James-- I didn't actually listen to him the first time he told me that uh, this was her role, but now it's become very clear, she makes silly the subject, and that's why uh-- they started way back in '95 to translate this huge site into a number of different languages and get people familiar with it such that they think the whole uh, Planet X situation is on the fringe, and silly, and not worth paying attention to, and they said the object was coming from the opposite direction, so they have this little play act all uh, setup with people uh, already designated to attack her, but they're from the same side." [This goes on, but we've gotten past anything meaningful.]

I felt the need to subject you to that because, as with many topics I discuss, I think it's important to the narrative what these claimants state in their own words. Nancy at least came up with an excuse that her singular source, the Zetas, told her a white lie ... more on that in her Episode, #51.

Mark, on the other hand, blamed everything on Nancy. I find this fascinating because it contradicts what he claimed about copying other peoples' work: He previously said that his story was based on over 100 different sources, including psychics and remote viewers and that he was lead to this via some sort of spiritual means. But here he claimed that it was all Nancy's fault, apparently he relied on her for all the details of when this would happen. One would think that if he gathered his information from over 100 sources that someone other than Nancy would have mentioned a date.

Conspiracies Abound

It also gets to the broader conspiratorial take that Mark offers to the story, though the broader idea is not unique to Mark, but is typical of the majority of astronomy conspiracies: Despite the tens if not hundreds of thousands of amateur astronomers in the world plus roughly 10,000 professional astronomers, somehow, the United States government is able to keep a planet that's just a few years away, secret - be that 3-5 times the size of Earth or 13-80 times the mass of Jupiter.

He offers a multi-layered conspiracy of disinformation, where the first level is for people who don't know about it are simply kept ign'ant. The second level is those who do know about it, and those people are just reassured that it's not coming anywhere near here. I guess I would be at that level in his hierarchy. The third level is the secret insiders who have that live Hubble view; they know it exists and they know everything about it but its orbit, and the disinformation is that it's not going to cause anything bad to happen. He also bought into the 1983 IRAS alleged discovery and then cover-up, something I addressed in detail in Episode 54.

When he was active in this area, which was for about five years starting around 2000 or so, he vehemently lashed out at his critics, especially Phil Plait. I've put a link to Phil's page on the subject in the shownotes for this episode. Hazlewood even went so far as to blame Phil and others for sending him fake Planet X images for him to then post, then Phil and others could point out that they were other things like Jupiter's volcanic moon Io and discredit him. He later claimed that the same people who were behind the September 11, 2001, conspiracy to plan the demolition of the World Trade Towers are also the ones behind Planet X.


So, that's about the level of Mark Hazlewood's claims: There's very little that's original to his ideas, he was obviously wrong because he claimed Planet X would be here a decade ago, his evidence was hearsay that made no sense or was based on increasing natural disasters which weren't actually increasing, and the object he claimed was Planet X was not internally consistent -- namely its mass and structure. But, when confronted by any of this, it became a giant conspiracy. So, while even though I've covered a lot of these ideas before, there was still some new stuff in this narrative, and I think it makes an interesting contribution to the ongoing Fake Story of Planet X saga.

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