Sunday, 9 February 2014

Incoming Planet-Sized Object

Nibiru is back in the news! It has not been given that name by the source, but it has inevitably crept up in the vocabulary of commentators. Nibiru is the planet described in Zecharia Sitchin’s seven-book Earth’s Chronicles series which he wrote between 1976 and 2007. From his analysis of ancient Sumerian texts it is said to be a planet as yet undiscovered by modern astronomers which regularly passes close to the Earth in its long orbit and causes major global natural disasters when it does. In the run up to the Mayan Calendar 2012 date there was a lot of talk about Nibiru returning on that day to engender the Apocalypse. This of course did not happen and we’re all fine. However the prospect of Nibiru returning has not gone away and some people still fear it. I do not for reasons I’ll explain.

This saga kicked off when a YouTube video was released featuring somebody calling himself Dr Kyle Kaplan, an astronomer at the University of Texas, standing in what looks like the control room of an observatory. We are told that this is the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains in Texas. What’s more Dr Kaplan does exist; he has a webpage at the University of Texas, see: However, I can’t find the video under discussion and there’s been a bit of a copyright tussle between him and some other users; I don’t know why. In the original video Kaplan supposedly announces that a planet-sized object is currently approaching the Earth. He’s not sure if it will actually collide with the Earth, but even if it doesn’t its gravitational field will cause catastrophic geological disturbances that will increase earthquakes and volcanic activity, tsunamis, tectonic displacement, cities sinking into the sea, etc etc etc. The object is incoming at 124 miles per second and is one billion 940 million miles away, that’s already inside the orbit of Pluto; it will be in the vicinity of Earth in August of this year. Kaplan gives its exact coordinates on the celestial sphere. On January the 30th this was in the constellation of Camelopardalis. Right Ascension: 4 hrs 8 mins 8 secs- Declination: 60 degrees 56 arc mins 43 arc secs. I don’t quite understand what these numbers mean, but an astronomer will and all of them in the world can now turn their telescopes on that location and see if they can spot the object; if it’s really “planet-sized” and big enough to harm the Earth, then that shouldn’t be too difficult. We constantly hear stories on the Net about how “Nibiru is coming!... Nibiru is coming!” and most of these consist of videos showing sundogs or lens flare, or crudely-photoshopped composites of tennis balls and eclipses. This one is different; it involves a real expert and exact information that can be either confirmed or denied.
According to this website, the main media outlet for the incident, see: Dr Kaplan was later forced by the University authorities to issue another video denouncing his previous one as a joke, although I can’t find that one either. According to this article, the planet may still be real and the second vid was made to prevent public panic, similar to the initial cover up in the film Deep Impact, see: In my view, by far the most likely explanation is that this was a hoax on Kaplan’s part and he’s gone quiet simply because he’s been given a bollocking by his bosses at the observatory and sent home in disgrace. As I’ve said before, you can’t keep secrets in astronomy, there are simply too many telescopes in the world. Even forcing all the big observatories, like McDonald, to keep shtum would involve an impossibly top-heavy conspiracy; and that’s before you’ve dealt with the many millions of amateur astronomers combing the entire sky from their back garden or a skylight in their attic. Astronomy is the one truly democratic science; there can be no cover-ups in it. If this unknown planet were real, then in the few days since this announcement was made we’d have had a massive torrent of online discussion in the astronomical community, about how its presence had been independently verified. This has not happened.

My advice to readers therefore is, sleep tight. However the question remains, even if what’s been announced is not going to happen, could something like this happen? Yes. The universe is a violent and dynamic place. We don’t yet know where every object in our solar system is and there may well be planets, asteroids and comets out there that we have yet to discover which could pose a threat to the Earth; the dinosaurs were wiped out by one of these objects striking the planet and sooner or later, this danger will return. However, we now have the technology to spot these objects a long time before they come close to the Earth and there are ways and means of dealing with them. There are spacecraft being designed that can deflect any big rock with our name on it onto a new course so that it misses. However the danger doesn’t only concern objects inside our solar system. The imaginary object Kaplan talks about in his prank can’t have been in orbit around the sun. Keplers Laws describe how anything orbiting in space has to travel at a fixed track and speed; this is why I rejected the Nibiru-2012 connection, see: However there are also objects beyond our solar system which are drifting between stars and not orbiting any of them; some comets might be such objects. There are also larger solid bodies, as big as large planets, that are floating randomly through interstellar space, orbiting only the core of the Milky Way along with all the stars. These are called rogue planets or “planemoes” and they might even outnumber the planets we’re familiar with which orbit stars like the Earth does. They’re exactly like normal planets except they’re very cold because they’re so far from any sun. These could pose a hazard in the future to interstellar space missions and planemoes might need to have warning beacons placed on them like rocks at sea have lighthouses to alert ships. What if a planemo drifted into the path of our solar system, or if a fast-moving one passed through it? Sadly, if it was the size of a major planet and definitely on a collision course we would be able to do nothing except get our affairs in order. However the Earth has survived for over six billion years without being bludgeoned by a planemo so clearly this eventuality is extremely unlikely. There is no point in worrying about something we can do nothing about and probably will never happen anyway… And even if it did, maybe the aliens would be able to stop it. I believe we are masters of our own destiny and dismiss the notion of waiting for any “saviours” etc, but if we were in the firing line of a planemo and unable to dodge it, and a kindly passing ET offered to lend a hand, I’d happily swallow my pride and accept!

1 comment:

Michael Fantore said...

Kyle Kaplan is listed at the University as a grad student, there is no Dr Kaplan at the university. If Kyle Kaplan completes his grad studies, he might be called Dr Kaplan.