What is Planet X / Nibiru / Nemesis / Hercolubus / Wormwood?
By Compton Naipaul
This article mostly favors the technical side, as description, origins and definitions go, but I feel this aspect of it is still very important, if you wish to truly get a concrete grasp of the concept and probable existence of Planet X / Nibiru or any of its other associated names.
We will start off with Planet X and follow with the other hypothesized astronomical objects: Hercolubus, Wormwood, the more scientifically-backed of the group, Tyche and also Nemesis star. Some other names used are Marduk, 12th Planet, Winged Globe, Red Dragon, The Destroyer, Yahweh and Red Star.
Planet X is a hypothetical ninth planet of the solar system, specifically a planet beyond the orbit of Neptune. Once believed to be responsible for apparent discrepancies in the orbit of Neptune, the term now refers to any hypothetical planet beyond the orbit of Neptune. Please also see the Nibiru definition coming up later in this article, as Nibiru is considered by many to be the same as Planet X.
Planet X in-depth
Following the discovery of the planet Neptune in 1846, there was considerable speculation that another planet might exist beyond its orbit. The search began in the mid-19th century and culminated at the start of the 20th with Percival Lowell‘s quest for Planet X. Lowell proposed the Planet X hypothesis to explain apparent discrepancies in the orbits of the giant planets, particularly Uranus and Neptune, speculating that the gravity of a large unseen ninth planet could have perturbed Uranus enough to account for the irregularities.
Clyde Tombaugh‘s discovery of Pluto in 1930 appeared to validate Lowell’s hypothesis and Pluto was officially named the ninth planet. In 1978, Pluto was conclusively determined to be too small for its gravity to affect the giant planets, resulting in a brief search for a tenth planet. The search was largely abandoned in the early 1990s, when a study of measurements made by the Voyager 2 spacecraft found that the irregularities observed in Uranus’ orbit were due to a slight overestimation of Neptune’s mass. After 1992, the discovery of numerous small icy objects with similar or even wider orbits than Pluto led to a debate over whether Pluto should remain a planet, or whether it and its neighbors should, like the asteroids, be given their own separate classification. Although a number of the larger members of this group were initially described as planets, in 2006 the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto and its largest neighbors as dwarf planets, leaving Neptune the farthest known planet in the Solar System.
Today, the astronomical community widely agrees that Planet X, as originally envisioned, does not exist, but the concept of Planet X has been revived by a number of astronomers to explain other anomalies observed in the outer Solar System. In popular culture, and even among some astronomers, Planet X has become a stand-in term for any undiscovered planet in the outer Solar System, regardless of its relationship to Lowell’s hypothesis. Other trans-Neptunian planets have also been suggested, based on different evidence. As of March 2014, observations with the WISE telescope have ruled out the possibility of a Saturn-sized object out to 10,000 AU, and a Jupiter-sized or larger object out to 26,000 AU.
In 1894, with the help of William Pickering, Percival Lowell, a wealthy Bostonian, founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1906, convinced he could resolve the conundrum of Uranus’s orbit, he began an extensive project to search for a trans-Neptunian planet, which he named Planet X. The X in the name represents an unknown and is pronounced as the letter, as opposed to the Roman numeral for 10. (At the time, Planet X would have been the ninth planet.) Lowell’s hope in tracking down Planet X was to establish his scientific credibility, which had eluded him thanks to his widely derided belief that channel-like features visible on the surface of Mars were canals constructed by an intelligent civilization.
Lowell’s first search focused on the ecliptic, the plane encompassed by the zodiac where the other planets in the Solar System lie. Using a 5-inch photographic camera, he manually examined over 200 three-hour exposures with a magnifying glass, and found no planets. At that time, Pluto was too far above the ecliptic to be imaged by the survey. After revising his predicted possible locations, Lowell conducted a second search from 1914 to 1916. In 1915, he published his Memoir of a Trans-Neptunian Planet, in which he concluded that Planet X had a mass roughly seven times that of Earth—about half that of Neptune—and a mean distance from the Sun of 43 AU. He assumed Planet X would be a large, low-density object with a high albedo, like the giant planets. As a result, it would show a disc with diameter of about one arc second and an apparent magnitude of between 12 and 13—bright enough to be spotted.
Separately, in 1908, Pickering announced that, by analyzing irregularities in Uranus’ orbit, he had found evidence for a ninth planet. His hypothetical planet, which he termed “Planet O” (because it came after “N”, i.e. Neptune), possessed a mean orbital radius of 51.9 AU and an orbital period of 373.5 years. Plates taken at his observatory in Arequipa, Peru showed no evidence for the predicted planet, and British astronomer P. H. Cowell showed that the irregularities observed in Uranus’ orbit virtually disappeared once the planet’s displacement of longitude was taken into account. Lowell himself, despite his close association with Pickering, dismissed Planet O out of hand, saying, “This planet is very properly designated “O,” [for it] is nothing at all.” Unbeknownst to Pickering, four of the photographic plates taken in the search for “Planet O” by astronomers at the Mount Wilson Observatory in 1919 captured images of Pluto, though this was only recognized years later. Pickering went on to suggest many other possible trans-Neptunian planets up to the year 1932, which he named P, Q, R, S, T and U; none were ever detected.
Lowell’s sudden death in 1916 temporarily halted the search for Planet X.
In 1929, the observatory’s director, Vesto Melvin Slipher, summarily handed the job of locating the planet to Clyde Tombaugh, a 22-year-old Kansas farm boy who had only just arrived at the Lowell Observatory after Slipher had been impressed by a sample of his astronomical drawings.
By the beginning of 1930, Tombaugh’s search had reached the constellation of Gemini. On 18 February 1930, after searching for nearly a year and examining nearly two million stars, Tombaugh discovered a moving object on photographic plates taken on 23 January and 29 January of that year. A lesser-quality photograph taken on January 21 confirmed the movement. Upon confirmation, Tombaugh walked into Slipher’s office and declared, “Doctor Slipher, I have found your Planet X.” The object lay just six degrees from one of two locations for Planet X Lowell had suggested; thus it seemed he had at last been vindicated. After the observatory obtained further confirmatory photographs, news of the discovery was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory on March 13, 1930. The new object was later precovered on photographs dating back to 19 March 1915. The decision to name the object Pluto was intended in part to honour Percival Lowell, as his initials made up the word’s first two letters. After discovering Pluto, Tombaugh continued to search the ecliptic for other distant objects. He found hundreds of variable stars and asteroids, as well as two comets, but no further planets.
To the observatory’s disappointment and surprise, Pluto showed no visible disc; it appeared as a point, no different from a star and, at only 15th magnitude, was six times dimmer than Lowell had predicted, which meant it was either very small, or very dark. Because Lowell astronomers thought Pluto was massive enough to perturb planets, they assumed that it should have an albedo of 0.07 (meaning that it reflected only 7% of the light that hit it); about as dark as asphalt and similar to that of Mercury, the least reflective planet known. This would give Pluto an assumed diameter of about 8,000 km, or about 60% that of Earth.Observations also revealed that Pluto’s orbit was very elliptical, far more than that of any other planet.
Pluto’s size was finally determined conclusively in 1978, when American astronomer James W. Christy discovered its moon Charon. This enabled him, together with Robert Sutton Harrington of the US Naval Observatory, to measure the mass of the Pluto–Charon system directly by observing the moon’s orbital motion around Pluto. They determined Pluto’s mass to be 1.31×1022 kg; roughly one five-hundredth that of Earth or one sixth that of the Moon, and far too small to account for the observed discrepancies in the orbits of the outer planets. Lowell’s “prediction” had been a coincidence: if there was a Planet X, it was not Pluto.
After 1978, a number of astronomers kept up the search for Lowell’s Planet X, convinced that, because Pluto was no longer a viable candidate, an unseen tenth planet must have been perturbing the outer planets.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Robert Harrington led a search to determine the real cause of the apparent irregularities. He calculated that any Planet X would be at roughly three times the distance of Neptune from the Sun; its orbit would be highly eccentric, and strongly inclined to the ecliptic—the planet’s orbit would be at roughly a 32-degree angle from the orbital plane of the other known planets. This hypothesis was met with a mixed reception. Noted Planet X sceptic Brian G. Marsden of the Minor Planet Center pointed out that these discrepancies were a hundred times smaller than those noticed by Le Verrier, and could easily be due to observational error.
In 1972, Joseph Brady of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory studied irregularities in the motion of Halley’s Comet. Brady claimed that they could have been caused by a Jupiter-sized planet beyond Neptune at 59 AU that is in a retrograde orbit around the Sun. However, both Marsden and Planet X proponent P. Kenneth Seidelmann attacked the hypothesis, showing that Halley’s Comet randomly and irregularly ejects jets of material, causing changes to its own orbital trajectory, and that such a massive object as Brady’s Planet X would have severely affected the orbits of known outer planets.
Although its mission did not involve a search for Planet X, the IRAS space observatory made headlines briefly in 1983 due to an “unknown object” that was at first described as “possibly as large as the giant planet Jupiter and possibly so close to Earth that it would be part of this Solar System.” Further analysis revealed that of several unidentified objects, nine were distant galaxies and the tenth was “interstellar cirrus“; none were found to be Solar System bodies
Harrington died in January 1993, without having found Planet X. Six months before, E. Myles Standish had used data from Voyager 2′s 1989 flyby of Neptune, which had revised the planet’s total mass downward by 0.5%—an amount comparable to the mass of Mars—to recalculate its gravitational effect on Uranus. When Neptune’s newly determined mass was used in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Developmental Ephemeris (JPL DE), the supposed discrepancies in the Uranian orbit, and with them the need for a Planet X, vanished. There are no discrepancies in the trajectories of any space probes such as Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, and Voyager 2 that can be attributed to the gravitational pull of a large undiscovered object in the outer Solar System. Today, most astronomers agree that Planet X, as Lowell defined it, does not exist.
Although most astronomers accept that Lowell’s Planet X does not exist, a number have revived the idea that a large unseen planet could create observable gravitational effects in the outer Solar System. These hypothetical objects are often referred to as “Planet X,” although the conception of these objects may differ considerably from that proposed by Lowell.
Enter the Sedna Factor
When Sedna was discovered, its exceptional orbit raised questions as to its origin. Its perihelion is so distant (≈75 AU) that there is no already-discovered mechanism that could explain it. It is too far from the planets, for instance, to have been affected by the gravity of Neptune. Hypotheses to explain its orbit include that it was affected by a passing star, that it was captured from another planetary system, or that it was tugged into its current position by a trans-Neptunian planet. The most obvious solution to determining Sedna’s peculiar orbit would be to locate a number of objects in a similar region, whose various orbital configurations would provide an indication as to their past history. If Sedna had been pulled into its orbit by a trans-Neptunian planet, then any other objects found in its region would have a similar perihelion to Sedna (around 80 AU). In 2014, astronomers announced the discovery of 2012 VP113, a large object with a Sedna-like 4200-year orbit and a perihelion of roughly 80 AU, ]which led to some speculation that it offered evidence of a potential trans-Neptunian planet. Trujillo and Sheppard argued that the clustering of arguments of perihelia for VP113 and other distant TNOs argued for the existence of a “super-Earth” of between 2 and 15 Earth masses near the ecliptic at 200–300 AU; however, subsequent calculations by Lorenzo Iorio argue a minimum distance of 496–570 AU for an object of 2 Earth masses and 970–1111 AU for an object of 15 Earth masses. In 2014 Astronomers at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid suggested that the available data actually argue for more than one trans-Neptunian planet.
Even without gravitational evidence, Mike Brown, the discoverer of Sedna, has argued that Sedna’s 12,000-year orbit means that probability alone suggests that an Earth-sized object exists beyond Neptune. Sedna’s orbit is so eccentric that it spends only a small fraction of its orbital period near the Sun, where it can be easily observed. This means that unless its discovery was a freak accident, there is probably a substantial population of objects roughly Sedna’s diameter yet to be observed in its orbital region. Mike Brown noted that “Sedna is about three-quarters the size of Pluto. If there are sixty objects three-quarters the size of Pluto [out there] then there are probably forty objects the size of Pluto … If there are forty objects the size of Pluto, then there are probably ten that are twice the size of Pluto. There are probably three or four that are three times the size of Pluto, and the biggest of these objects … is probably the size of Mars or the size of the Earth.” However, he notes that, should such an object be found, even though it might approach Earth in size, it would still be a dwarf planet by the current definition, because it would not have cleared its neighborhood sufficiently.
Additionally, speculation of a possible trans-Neptunian planet has revolved around the so-called “Kuiper cliff.” The Kuiper belt terminates suddenly at a distance of 48 AU from the Sun. Some have speculated that this sudden drop-off may be attributed to the presence of an object with a mass between that of Mars and Earth located beyond 48 AU. The presence of a Mars-like planet in a circular orbit at 60 AU leads to a trans-Neptunian object population incompatible with observations. For instance, it would severely deplete the plutino population. Astronomers have not excluded the possibility of a more massive Earth-like planet located further than 100 AU with an eccentric and inclined orbit. Computer simulations by Patryk Lykawka of Kobe University have suggested that a body with a mass between 0.3 and 0.7 Earth masses, ejected outward by Neptune early in the Solar System’s formation and currently in an elongated orbit between 101 and 200 AU from the Sun, could explain the Kuiper cliff and the peculiar detached objects such as Sedna and 2012 VP113. Although some astronomers have cautiously supported these claims, others, such as Alessandro Morbidelli, have dismissed them as “contrived”.
In 2012, Rodney Gomes of the National Observatory of Brazil modelled the orbits of 92 Kuiper belt objects and found that six of those orbits were far more elongated than the model predicted. He concluded that the simplest explanation was the gravitational pull of a distant planetary companion, such as a Neptune-sized object at 1500 AU or a Mars-sized object at around 53 AU.
Planet formation theory
The oligarch theory of planet formation states that there were hundreds of planet-sized objects, known as oligarchs, in the early stages of the Solar System’s evolution. In 2005, astronomer Eugene Chiang speculated that although some of these oligarchs became the planets we know today, most would have been flung outward by gravitational interactions. Some may have escaped the Solar System altogether to become free-floating planets, whereas others would be orbiting in a halo around the Solar System, with orbital periods of millions of years. This halo would lie at between 1,000 and 10,000 AU from the Sun, or between a third and a thirtieth the distance to the Oort cloud.
Its most recent promoter is the Colombian New Age author V.M. Rabolu (real name: Joaquin Enrique Amortegui Valbuena, 1926-2000). According to (a promotional video of) his free book, Hercolubus or Red Planet:
- on a previous approach, it wiped out Atlantis and a civilization that inhabited it, which inspired all global flood myths
- its proximity will cause volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and ultimately – a pole shift
- it will also cause a deadly epidemic that “official science” will be powerless to stop
- the only escape is… “the elimination of psychological defects” and… astral projection
- Those “who work on their spiritual regeneration” will be “taken to a safe place.”
Hercolubus or Red Planet was written in 1998/1999, but Rabolu apparently picked the idea from his “teacher” – Samael Aun Weor, who in the 1970s preached about Hercolubus being the end of the world in religious terms, as a punishment for the “shameful humanity that deserves the karma that approaches” and that “did not want to listen to the voice of the prophets”. Being the founder of a theosophy/anthroposophy-influenced New Age “gnostic” church, he also threw Atlantis and the Kali Yuga into the mix. In his version, Hercolubus is a part of the “distant solar system of Tylo”, which he identifies as Barnard’s Star. Needless to say, despite his claims to the contrary, Hercolubus is not an accepted scientific fact.
In the Brazilian version, the planet is orbiting an invisible star called Tia and enters the Solar System every 6666 years.
Wormwood is of religious origins and has varying interpretations but I will only include the two that are most relevant to the direction of this article.
Wormood (In the Bible)
Apsinthos in the Greek text, translated as “wormwood” in English language versions of the Bible, is thought to beArtemisia herba-alba. Wormwood is mentioned seven times in the Jewish Bible, always with the implication of bitterness.
Although the word wormwood appears several times in the Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew term לענה (la’anah, which means “curse” in Arabic and Hebrew), its only clear reference as a named entity occurs in the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation: “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Rev 8:10–11)
Various scientific scenarios have been theorized on the effects of an asteroid or comet‘s collision with Earth. An applicable scenario theorizes a chemical change in the atmosphere due to “heat shock” during entry and/or impact of a large asteroid or comet, reacting oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere to produce nitric-acid rain. Acid rain from the heat shock of a large comet or asteroid’s impact with Earth is believed by some to fit the Biblical description of the bitterness produced by the Wormwood Star upon a third of the Earth’s potable water.
Gerardus D. Bouw in his white paper “Wormwood” theorizes that since the term wormwood refers to a bitter or poisonous plant, specifically “apsinthos, that is, absinthe wormwood” in Revelation 8:11 and that a star falling would likely be an asteroid or comet … the most reasonable scenario being a comet, since they could have a chemical makeup that would make the waters bitter and poisonous and would have to break up by some means, “in order to fall on deep sources of water and rivers, the object cannot be in one piece when it arrives in the atmosphere.”
Tyche /ˈtaɪki/ is the nickname given to a hypothetical gas giantlocated in the Solar System‘s Oort cloud, first proposed in 1999 by astrophysicists John Matese, Patrick Whitman and Daniel Whitmire of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. They argue that evidence of Tyche’s existence can be seen in a supposed bias in the points of origin for long-period comets. More recently Matese and Whitmire re-evaluated the comet data and noted that Tyche, if it exists, would be detectable in the archive of data that was collected by NASA‘s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope. However, in 2014, NASA announced that the WISE survey had ruled out any object as they had defined it.
Matese, Whitmire and their colleague Patrick Whitman first proposed the existence of this planet in 1999, based on observations of the orbits of long-period comets. Most astronomers agree that long-period comets (those with orbits of thousands to millions of years) have a roughly isotropic distribution; that is, they arrive at random from every point in the sky. Because comets are volatile and dissipate over time, astronomers suspect that they must be held in a spherical cloud tens of thousands of AU distant (known as the Oort cloud) for most of their existence. However, Matese and Whitmire claimed that rather than arriving from random points across the sky as is commonly thought, comet orbits were in fact clustered in a band inclined to the orbital plane of the planets. Such clustering could be explained if they were disturbed by an unseen object at least as large as Jupiter, possibly a brown dwarf, located in the outer part of the Oort cloud. They also suggested that such an object might explain the trans-Neptunian object Sedna‘s peculiar orbit. However, the sample size of Oort comets was small and the results were inconclusive.
Whitmire and Matese speculate that Tyche’s orbit would lie at approximately 500 times Neptune‘s distance; equivalent to 15,000 AU (2.2×1012 km) from the Sun, a little less than one quarter of a light year. This is still well within the Oort cloud, whose boundary is estimated to be beyond 50,000 AU. It would have an orbital period of roughly 1.8 million years. A failed search of older IRAS data suggests that an object of 5 MJ would need to have a distance greater than 10,000 AU. Such a planet would orbit in a different plane in orientation to our current planet orbits, and would probably have been in a wide-binary orbit at the time of its formation. Wide binaries may form through capture during the dissolution of a star’s birth cluster..
Nibiru, a planet from the works of ancient astronaut proponent Zecharia Sitchin, particularly his book The 12th Planet. According to Sitchin’s interpretation of Babylonian religious texts, which contradicts conclusions reached by credited scholars on the subject, a giant planet (called Nibiru or Marduk) passes by Earth every 3,600 years and allows its sentient inhabitants to interact with humanity. These beings, which Sitchin identified with the Annunaki of Sumerian myth, would become humanity’s first gods.
Sitchin, who died in 2010, published a book, The End of Days, which set the time for the last passing of Nibiru by Earth at 556 BC, which would mean, given the object’s supposed 3,600-year orbit, that it would return sometime around AD 2900. He did however say that he believed that the Annunaki might return earlier by spaceship, and that the timing of their return would coincide with the shift from the astrological Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius, sometime between 2090 and 2370.
Nemesis differs from the other theorized astronomical objects in that it is a proposed companion star as opposed to a planet like the others. However some theories tie these two differing objects together. In some of the proposed theories, Nemeses is the parent star of the hypothesized Planet X / Nibiru, Tyche, etc.
Nemesis is a hypothetical red dwarf or brown dwarf, originally postulated in 1984 to be orbiting the Sun at a distance of about 95,000 AU (1.5 light-years), somewhat beyond the Oort cloud, to explain a perceived cycle of mass extinctions in the geological record, which seem to occur more often at intervals of 26 million years. As of 2012, over 1800 brown dwarfs have been identified and none of them are inside the Solar System. There are actually fewer brown dwarfs in our cosmic neighborhood than previously thought. Rather than one star for every brown dwarf, there may be as many as six stars for every brown dwarf. The majority of solar-type stars are single.
More recent theories suggest that other forces, like close passage of other stars, or the angular effect of the galactic gravity plane working against the outer solar orbital plane, may be the cause of orbital perturbations of some outer Solar System objects. In 2011, Coryn Bailer-Jones analysed craters on the surface of the Earth and reached the conclusion that the earlier findings of simple periodic patterns (implying periodic comet showers dislodged by a hypothetical Nemesis star) to be statistical artifacts, and found that the crater record shows no evidence for Nemesis. However, in 2010, A.L. Melott and R.K. Bambach found evidence in the fossil record confirming the extinction event periodicity originally claimed by Raup & Sepkoski in 1984, but at a higher confidence level and over a time period nearly twice as long. The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) failed to discover Nemesis in the 1980s. The 2MASS astronomical survey, which ran from 1997 to 2001, failed to detect an additional star or brown dwarf in the Solar System.
Using newer and more powerful infrared telescope technology, able to detect brown dwarfs as cool as 150 kelvins out to a distance of 10 light-years from the Sun, results from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE survey) have not detected Nemesis. In 2011, David Morrison, a senior scientist at NASA known for his work in risk assessment of near Earth objects, has written that there is no confidence in the existence of an object like Nemesis, since it should have been detected in infrared sky surveys.
Claimed periodicity of mass extinctions
In 1984, paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski published a paper claiming that they had identified a statistical periodicity in extinction rates over the last 250 million years using various forms of time series analysis. They focused on the extinction intensity of fossil families of marine vertebrates, invertebrates, and protozoans, identifying 12 extinction events over the time period in question. The average time interval between extinction events was determined as 26 million years. At the time, two of the identified extinction events (Cretaceous–Paleogene and Eocene–Oligocene) could be shown to coincide with large impact events. Although Raup and Sepkoski could not identify the cause of their supposed periodicity, they suggested a possible non-terrestrial connection. The challenge to propose a mechanism was quickly addressed by several teams of astronomers.
In 2010, Melott & Bambach re-examined the fossil data, including the now-improved dating, and using a second independent database in addition to that Raup & Sepkoski had used. They found evidence for a signal showing an excess extinction rate with a 27-million-year periodicity, now going back 500 million years, and at a much higher statistical significance than in the older work. They also determined that this periodicity is inconsistent with the Nemesis hypothesis. The change from 26 to 27 million years is expected based on a 3% “stretch” in the geological timescale since the 1980s.
Development of the Nemesis Hypothesis
Two teams of astronomers, Daniel P. Whitmire and Albert A. Jackson IV, and Marc Davis, Piet Hut, and Richard A. Muller, independently published similar hypotheses to explain Raup and Sepkoski’s extinction periodicity in the same issue of the journal Nature. This hypothesis proposes that the Sun may have an undetected companion star in a highly elliptical orbit that periodically disturbs comets in the Oort cloud, causing a large increase of the number of comets visiting the inner Solar System with a consequential increase of impact events on Earth. This became known as the “Nemesis” or “Death Star” hypothesis.
If it does exist, the exact nature of Nemesis is uncertain. Muller suggests that the most likely object is a red dwarf with anapparent magnitude between 7 and 12, while Daniel P. Whitmire and Albert A. Jackson argue for a brown dwarf. If a red dwarf, it would exist in star catalogs, but it would only be confirmed by measuring its parallax; due to orbiting the Sun it would have a low proper motion and would escape detection by older proper motion surveys that have found stars like the 9th-magnitude Barnard’s star. (The proper motion of Barnard’s star was detected in 1916.) Muller expects Nemesis to be discovered by the time parallax surveys reach the 10th magnitude.
Muller, referring to the date of a recent extinction at 11 million years before the present day, posits that Nemesis has asemi-major axis of about 1.5 light-years (95,000 AU) and suggests it is located (supported by Yarris, 1987) nearHydra, based on a hypothetical orbit derived from original aphelions of a number of atypical long-period comets that describe an orbital arc meeting the specifications of Muller’s hypothesis. Richard Muller’s most recent paper relevant to the Nemesis theory was published in 2002. In 2002, Muller speculated that Nemesis was perturbed 400 million years ago by a passing star from a circular orbit into an orbit with an eccentricity of 0.7.
Orbit of Sedna
The trans-Neptunian object Sedna has an extra-long and unusual elliptical orbit around the Sun, ranging between 76 and 975 AU. Sedna’s orbit is estimated to last between 10.5 and 12 thousand years. Its discoverer, Michael Brown of Caltech, noted in a Discovermagazine article that Sedna’s location seemed to defy reasoning: “Sedna shouldn’t be there,” Brown said. “There’s no way to put Sedna where it is. It never comes close enough to be affected by the Sun, but it never goes far enough away from the Sun to be affected by other stars.” Brown therefore postulated that a massive unseen object may be responsible for Sedna’s anomalous orbit.
Brown has stated that it is more likely that one or more non-companion stars, passing near the Sun billions of years ago, could have pulled Sedna out into its current orbit. In 2004, Kenyon forwarded this explanation after analysis of Sedna’s orbital data and computer modeling of possible ancient non-companion star passes.
Past, current and pending searches for Nemesis
Searches for Nemesis in the infrared are important because cooler stars comparatively shine more brightly in infrared light. The University of California‘s Leuschner Observatory failed to discover Nemesis by 1986. The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) failed to discover Nemesis in the 1980s. The 2MASS astronomical survey, which ran from 1997 to 2001, failed to detect a star, or brown dwarf, in the Solar System. If Nemesis exists, it may be detected by Pan-STARRS or the planned LSST astronomical surveys.
In particular, if Nemesis is a red dwarf or a brown dwarf, the WISE mission (an infrared sky survey that covered most of our solar neighborhood in movement-verifying parallax measurements) was expected to be able to find it. WISE can detect 150-kelvin brown dwarfs out to 10 light-years. But the closer a brown dwarf is, the easier it is to detect. Preliminary results of the WISE survey were released on April 14, 2011. On March 14, 2012, the entire catalog of the WISE mission was released. In 2014 WISE data ruled out a Saturn or larger-sized body in the Oort cloud out to ten thousand AU.
Calculations in the 1980s suggested that a Nemesis object would have an irregular orbit due to perturbations from the galaxy and passing stars. The Melott & Bambach work shows an extremely regular signal, inconsistent with the expected irregularities in such an orbit. Thus, while supporting the extinction periodicity, it appears to be inconsistent with the Nemesis hypothesis, though of course not inconsistent with other kinds of substellar objects. According to NASA, “recent scientific analysis no longer supports the idea that extinctions on Earth happen at regular, repeating intervals, and thus, the Nemesis hypothesis is no longer needed.” And, indeed, a recent sky survey by NASA’s WISE mission found no star or brown dwarf orbiting the Sun.
I will conclude by saying it’s apparent that the conclusions and detailed information in this article is derived indirectly from NASA and other organizations and as such it is their sub-conclusions within each section and is not necessarily the point of view of mine or many many other non-professional individuals or even the point of view of other professional agencies or scientists.
Unfortunately, these are the sources more easily available which, sadly, tends to give the false impression that their conclusions are indeed the reality. But I will end by saying there is no true conclusion, until such time that we are able to develop the technologies to easily find the objects that they themselves admit are difficult to locate and when we have the ability to accurately chart the unimaginably vast open spaces which, at present, we are not capable of doing to a certain level of detail.
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