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Science

Nibiru Exists? the Search for Planet X Continues

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Just in time for the 2012 doomsday celebrations, the hunt for Planet X has blossomed in recent months. New research seems to indicate the possibility of a world four times as massive as Earth that lurks beyond the orbit of Neptune. Now many people will ask if this is Nibiru, the famed prophesized planet destined to end our world come December. The answer to that may both shock and disappoint you.

The Search For Planet X

In science, “X” is a placeholder name used to represent unidentified or example entities. It is the science equivalent to the computer programmer’s foo. In particular, in astronomy, Planet X refers to the next undiscovered planet. There have been many planets to take the Planet X title: Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Eris just to name a few. On top of that, every extra solar planet ever found was Planet X for their parent stars at one time or another. A planet is called X when there is evidence for a planet where none can be seen.

This does not mean all planetary evidence is from a planet. There are many instances where new evidence comes along showing that the Planet Xs simply did not exist and the observed phenomena were something else entirely. The most famous of these was in the early 1900s which turned out to be human observational error that sparked the entire Planet Nibiru Conspiracy Theory.

The New Planet X

There was, of course, many a Planet X that turned out to actually exist. I mentioned many of them already. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were all discovered during the search for Planet X, leading us to the current search. The new, four-Earth-mass Planet X lies in the Scatter Disk, which is the lightly populated innermost section of the Kuiper Belt that ranges from 30 astronomical units, at Neptune’s orbit, and extends out to 100 astronomical units.

This new Planet X claim comes from Rodney Gomes, an astronomer at the National Observatory of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, who presented his models during the May 2012 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Timberline Lodge, Oregon.

According to Gomes, The new Planet X solves the mystery seen in the orbits of the small icy bodies in the Disk. For more than a decade, ever since the first Kuiper object were discovered, astronomers observed that some of the orbits, including the orbits of dwarf planets such as Sedna, deviate from known gravitational models. However, everything fell into place once Gomes added an additional massive planet to the equation. This new planet would be too far away to affect Earth and the inner solar system, but it would definitely be close enough to affect the Scatter Disk.

This new Planet X may still turn out to be another false alarm, and most astronomers are still very skeptical. However, no one is dismissing the claim. Douglas Hamilton, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, noted at Life’s Little Mysteries that “Gomes is actively seeking further evidence and I await his findings with interest! He has taken on a difficult task, but is taking the right approach. It is definitely a high risk, high reward, situation – a discovery of a new planet would be spectacular!”

So, is this new planet Nibiru?

So, what does this all mean? Are the conspiracy theorists correct that this Nibiru will come destroy us all in a matter of months? From Gomes’ models, no, Planet X does not come close enough to make a difference here. The planets in our star system, including Earth, are too gravity locked into their orbits for such a scenario to be true, and the new planet’s orbit keeps it beyond Neptune.

However, from an astronomer’s perspective, this is all exciting stuff. I agree with Hamilton’s assessment of the situation. A new planet in the system would be big news. It will be a fresh new world to explore, and, in turn, may shed new light to how the solar system formed in the first place, including the origins of life.

Time will tell if the data is indeed from a new planet, or simply coincidence. Either way, we do not need to worry about rogue planets killing us from above, but maybe that is good thing as we maybe looking in the wrong direction. We don’t need another Planet X to destroy us. From pollution to climate change to political unrest, violence and everything in between, we have been doing that to ourselves for decades. So, instead of looking above for a scapegoat, we should pay more attention to the Planet X we live on. Maybe then, we may have a chance to prevent the inevitable. Until then, keep your eyes to the stars, you may never know what you might find.



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2 Comments

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