Researchers at Caltech announced on January 19th they had discovered evidence of an as-yet unseen giant planet, 10 times the size of the Earth, which may be tracing a bizarre orbit requiring 10,000 to 20,000 years to make a revolution of the Sun. On Saturday, January 23rd, Slooh will point its telescopes toward the area of space where this planet may be, and explore whether researchers discovered the appearance of the much anticipated Planet Nibiru, aka ‘Planet X’.
CalTech researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, made the discovery using mathematical models and computer simulations. The planet itself has not yet been viewed through a telescope, but they hope their new paper on the discovery will inspire astronomers to attempt to find it. They say Planet Nine helps explain a number of mysterious features of the field of icy objects and debris beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt.
“Although we were initially quite skeptical that this planet could exist, as we continued to investigate its orbit and what it would mean for the outer solar system, we become increasingly convinced that it is out there,” says Batygin, an assistant professor of planetary science. “For the first time in over 150 years, there is solid evidence that the solar system’s planetary census is incomplete.”
This isn’t the first time that someone has suggested that an unknown giant planet could exist beyond what we consider the edge of our Solar System. It’s just the first time scientists have found their own evidence to support any version of that claim. In his 1976 book, The 12th Planet, Zecharia Sitchin, a proponent of theories of ancient astronauts, claimed that Sumerian and Babylonian mythology supported the idea of another planet orbiting well outside the reach of the planet Neptune. He named this planet Nibiru, and claimed that every 3,600 years, the planet’s orbit brought it past Earth so its inhabitants could interact with humanity.
In 1995, Nancy Lieder, a self-described “contactee”, warned the world about an impending cataclysm. Lieder claimed that Nibiru, which she originally referred to as Planet X, was doomed to collide with Earth, causing an apocalyptic event that would flip the magnetic poles of the planet. This cataclysm was originally predicted to occur in 2003, but was delayed to coincide with the Mayan Calendar conspiracy of 2012, then delayed again. Sitchin has denied claims that Lieder’s planet and his are one and the same.
Astronomers, though, have long disputed the existence of Nibiru, and have insisted that there is no threat to Earth. In fact, Mike Brown, one of the authors on this brand new paper, has been one of the most vocal opponents of what he refers to as “pseudo-science”. Brown has said that a planet with an orbit like that which is assumed about Nibiru would only have lasted about a million years in our Solar System before being ejected by Jupiter, and that the idea that any planet could force a flip in Earth’s magnetic field defies the laws of physics.
But conspiracy theorists won’t back down from their beliefs, holding fast to the claim that NASA continuously denies proof of the existence of Nibiru. Most of these involve claims that Nibiru has actually been observed in a variety of telescopes and sky surveys, but that evidence of those observations have been redacted.
During our live broadcast, we’ll take a look at these two worlds — one the figment of imagination, the other an unobserved world supported by science — and discuss the coincidental intersection of science fiction and science fact.