So, as we near the very end of the Gregorian Short Count (and hence, the end of the world) on Friday, it seems like as good a time as any to discuss such things.
Let's review, then.
1. There probably is an object, most likely a red dwarf or brown dwarf star, which is a dim companion of our sun. It exists somewhere just outside the Oort cloud, between 0.8 and 1.5 light years from the sun. If it is a red dwarf then it is almost certainly a star we have already identified and cataloged, but have not yet realized its proximity. The WISE orbital telescope is currently scanning all such candidates to determine which one is our nearby neighbor.
2. The object is named Nemesis by most astronomers, but some have proposed naming it Tyche instead.
3. The orbit of Nemesis is such that every 27 million years or so it disrupts portions of the Oort cloud in such a way as to send some number of Oort comets into the inner solar system. This 27 million year period seems to coincide with the periodicity of mass extinction events on earth. The most recent extinction event typically attributed to Nemesis cometary activity was the Middle Miocene Extinction about 14.5 million years ago.This means that the next Nemesis extinction event is likely to occur some 12.5 million years in the future.
|Artist's conception of Nemesis, seen from orbiting debris field|
And then there is Nibiru, which is a large planet predicted by Nancy Lieder to collide (or nearly collide) with earth on 21 December 2012. Nancy Lieder is an accomplished astronomer who successfully predicted in 1997 that comet Hale-Bopp was really a star, and that a planet called Planet X would pass near by earth on 27 May 2003, stopping the earth's rotation for nine days, shifting the earth's magnetic pole toward the magnetic pole of Planet X and causing the earth's tectonic plates to flip over like pancakes. Boy, well do I remember that day! Luckily for me I had already built my house on the bottom of one of the tectonic plates, so when the North American plate inverted itself I actually ended up with a pretty nice piece of real-estate. But, I digress.
Anyway, it's the very same Nancy Lieder who has now predicted that her Planet X is really Zechariah Sitchin's Nibiru, and that its next closest point of approach with earth will coincide with the end of the Mayan Long Count, at the December solstice of 2012. Because the world always ends when the calender runs out, just like it will on Friday night. And it all must be true, because it's already been made into a major motion picture.
Okay, so, let's look at Nibiru for a minute. Oh right we can't, because, um, it's, you know...
1) Too close to see. It's orbit is eccentric but it's still in orbit around the sun. It's going to pass close enough to the earth to have a profound gravitational effect on it. And we know the date of CPA with earth, 21 December 2012. We know the speed it has to be traveling in each part of its orbit (thank you, Johannes Kepler!) so we can determine pretty easily that by now Nibiru must be somewhere inside the orbit of Mars. We know that Nibiru is a "large planet" from both Lieder and Sitchin, presumably significantly larger than Mars. Nibiru should be the third brightest object in the sky right now, after only the sun and the moon. Since Venus is occasionally visible in broad daylight, Nibiru should be visible in broad daylight all the time, and brilliant enough at night to read a newspaper headline by. All of this assumes a planet a little bigger than earth or Venus, but most of the drawings I've seen seem to indicate that Nibiru is about as large as Saturn. An object as large as Saturn inside Mar's orbit would appear...huge. Maybe it's so huge we just mistake it for the sky itself!
2) Visible only from the south pole. Just like Polaris, which is only visible from the north pole...no, wait, that's stupid.
3) Hiding behind the sun. First off, our solar telescope satellites would have already seen it, and second, the only orbit which would keep it behind the sun for any length of time is in earth's orbit but on exactly the opposite side of the sun. Which is conceivable, but then it will never get here. Certainly not by 2012.
4) It doesn't exist.
HINT: Pick number 4!!!!!!
Now, here's my bitch with all of this. In this year, 2010, there have been a large number of truly amazing astronomical discoveries. Felisa Wolfe-Simon's discovery of arsenic-based life, or Gurzadyan and Penrose's discovery of "fossils" from before the Big Bang and beyond our universe, probably top the list. Both of those are huge, in different ways. But outside of space-geek blogs like this one, nobody really reports on these discoveries. But just now I was able to get THREE AND A HALF MILLION HITS for "Nibiru" on Google.
The mind fawking reels.