By Michael Alicea,
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 27, 2002
What is it about astronomy that draws cranks by the cartload? And
why do they delight in spewing bad-science-based doomsday scenarios
and scaring the bejabbers out of everyone?
This time the culprit is a theoretical planet named Nibiru. It's
being trumpeted in astronomy circles and over the Internet as an
engine of disaster, set to cause all sorts of calamities in less than
a year's time.
Trouble is, Nibiru doesn't exist. And, like the dire misfortunes that
were predicted to follow the recent planetary alignment, serious
scientists are certain its supposed effects will come to naught.
Here's the story.
Nibiru, also known as Planet X, was first proposed by author and
scholar Zechariah Sitchin in his 1976 book, The 12th Planet. Sitchin
claimed Nibiru was captured by the sun millions of years ago and has
been wreaking havoc ever since. According to the theory, the large
planet orbits the sun once every 3,600 years. It also possesses
several moons, one of which collided with a planet that lay in an
orbit between Jupiter and Mars, cleaving it in two: one half
disintegrating into the known asteroid belt and the other half
Yep, our own terra firma.
Crackpot theories on Net
The other part of Sitchin's theory, taken from translations of
Sumerian and Babylonian texts, is that this planet is inhabited by a
race called the Anunnanki, who might be the gods our ancestors both
worshiped and feared.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence to support this fiction, many
Web sites are dedicated to the "study" of this "theory." Some of them
make their own theories about the true nature of this rogue planet,
while others announce the reintroduction of this planet into the
inner system as soon as May 2003.
One Web huckster, who claims to have channeled alien messages from
"Zetans," has proclaimed Nibiru will dip into the inner system in May
2003, causing pole shifts, tidal waves and all sorts of other
catastrophes. This babble is dismissed even by Sitchin, who has
publicly announced that this does not fit his timetable for the
arrival of Nibiru, which he places about 1,000 years in the future.
But the claims have spawned related sites and nonsensical theories by
Planetary alignments OK
This sort of doomsaying isn't new, of course. In 1976, a rare
alignment of most of the planets was seen as the dawning of a new age
of enlightenment for some, a recipe for disaster for others.
In May 2000 another planetary alignment had at least five books on
the market, spelling out how the Earth would be changed forever by
the combined gravitational forces of the planets, which would cause a
pole shift, tidal waves, etc.
We are still here. As we will be come May 2003.
Although a Planet X with a 3,600-year orbit is not beyond the realm
of possibility, there is simply no evidence that such a planet
But when have common sense and science been able to stop a pack of
Internet chatterboxes -- and their irresponsible bids to sell books?
For more information, visit Phil Platt's Bad Astronomy Web site at
www.badastronomy.com and click on the Nibiru link or