The Nibiru cataclysm is a supposed disastrous encounter between the Earth and a large planetary object (either a collision or a near-miss) that certain groups believe will take place in the early 21st century. Believers in this doomsday event usually refer to this object as Nibiru or Planet X. The idea was first put forward in 1995 by Nancy Lieder, founder of the website ZetaTalk. Lieder describes herself as a contactee with the ability to receive messages from extraterrestrials from the Zeta Reticuli star system through an implant in her brain. She states that she was chosen to warn mankind that the object would sweep through the inner Solar System in May 2003 (though that date was later postponed) causing Earth to undergo a physical pole shift that would destroy most of humanity.
The prediction has subsequently spread beyond Lieder’s website and has been embraced by numerous Internet doomsday groups. In the late 2000s, it became closely associated with the 2012 phenomenon. Since 2012, the Nibiru cataclysm has frequently reappeared in the popular media, usually linked to newsmaking astronomical objects such as Comet ISON or Planet Nine. Although the name “Nibiru” is derived from the works of the ancient astronaut writer Zecharia Sitchin and his interpretations of Babylonian and Sumerian mythology, he denied any connection between his work and various claims of a coming apocalypse. A prediction by self-described “Christian numerologist” David Meade that the Nibiru cataclysm would occur on 23 September 2017 received extensive media coverage.
The idea that a planet-sized object will collide with or closely pass by Earth in the near future is not supported by any scientific evidence and has been rejected by astronomers and planetary scientists as pseudoscience and an Internet hoax. Such an object would have destabilised the orbits of the planets to the extent that their effects would be easily observable today. Astronomers have hypothesized many planets beyond Neptune, and though many have been disproved, there are some that remain viable candidates such as Planet Nine. All the current candidates are in orbits that keep them well beyond Neptune throughout their orbit, even when they are closest to the Sun.
Nancy Lieder and ZetaTalk
The idea of the Nibiru encounter originated with Nancy Lieder, a Wisconsin woman who claims that as a girl she was contacted by gray extraterrestrials called Zetas, who implanted a communications device in her brain. In 1995, she founded the website ZetaTalk to disseminate her ideas. Lieder first came to public attention on Internet newsgroups during the build-up to Comet Hale–Bopp’s 1997 perihelion. She stated, claiming to speak as the Zetas, that “The Hale–Bopp comet does not exist. It is a fraud, perpetrated by those who would have the teeming masses quiescent until it is too late. Hale–Bopp is nothing more than a distant star, and will draw no closer.” She claimed that the Hale–Bopp story was manufactured to distract people from the imminent arrival of a large planetary object, “Planet X”, which would soon pass by Earth and destroy civilization. After Hale–Bopp’s perihelion revealed it as one of the brightest and longest-observed comets of the last century, Lieder removed the first two sentences of her initial statement from her site, though they can still be found in Google’s archives. Her claims eventually made the New York Times.
Lieder described Planet X as roughly four times the size of the Earth, and said that its closest approach would occur on May 27, 2003, resulting in the Earth’s rotation ceasing for exactly 5.9 terrestrial days. This would be followed by the Earth’s pole destabilising in a pole shift (a physical pole shift, with the Earth’s pole physically moving, rather than a geomagnetic reversal) caused by magnetic attraction between the Earth’s core and the magnetism of the passing planet. This in turn would disrupt the Earth’s magnetic core and lead to subsequent displacement of the Earth’s crust. After the 2003 date passed without incident, Lieder said that it was merely a “white lie… to fool the establishment.” She refused to disclose the true date, saying that to do so would give those in power enough time to declare martial law and trap people in cities during the shift, leading to their deaths.
Zecharia Sitchin and Sumer
Although Lieder originally referred to the object as “Planet X”, it has become deeply associated with Nibiru, a planet from the works of ancient astronaut proponent Zecharia Sitchin, particularly his book The 12th Planet. According to Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Mesopotamian religious texts, which contradicts conclusions reached by any and all credited scholars of Mesopotamian history, a giant planet (called Nibiru or Marduk) passes by Earth every 3,600 years, allowing its sentient inhabitants to interact with humanity. Sitchin identified these beings with the Anunnaki in Sumerian mythology and claimed that they were humanity’s first gods. Lieder first made the connection between Nibiru and her Planet X on her site in 1996 (“Planet X does exist, and it is the 12th Planet, one and the same.”).
However, Sitchin, who died in 2010, denied any connection between his work and Lieder’s claims. In 2007, partly in response to Lieder’s proclamations, Sitchin 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.
2012 and the Mayan calendar
Though Lieder herself has not specified a new date for the object’s return, many groups have taken up her idea and cited their own dates. One frequently cited date was December 21, 2012. This date had many apocalyptic associations, as it was the end of a cycle (baktun) in the long count in the Mayan calendar. Several writers published books connecting the encounter with 2012. Despite that date having passed, many websites still contend that Nibiru/Planet X is en route to Earth.
In 2012, Lieder claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama futilely attempted to announce the presence of Nibiru near the Sun. After 2012, she claimed that several world leaders had intended to announce the presence of Nibiru near the Sun on October 20, 2014. Two weeks after the supposed date of announcement, she claimed that it did not occur because of consternation amongst the establishment.