In 2017, a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “Christian numerologist” named David Meade revived the Nibiru cataclysm by tying it to various passages from the Bible. Meade declared that these passages contained secret numerological codes, which revealed the exact date on which Nibiru would arrive. He also based his predictions on the geometry of the Giza Pyramids. Meade initially predicted that Nibiru would arrive in October 2017, but he later revised the date back to 23 September. The specific focus of his prediction revolved around the Woman of the Apocalypse referring to a supposedly unique configuration on that date of the Sun, Moon, and planets in Virgo. He cited the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 as a harbinger.
Meade’s claims received extensive media attention. Viral fake news stories circulated across the Internet, adducing non-existent confirmations by NASA of Nibiru’s existence on a course “headed straight for Earth”. In reality, NASA’s position is, and always has been, that Nibiru does not exist. Meade also faced criticism from fellow Christians; Ed Stetzer, writing for Christianity Today, stated that “there is no such thing as a ‘Christian numerologist'”, and described Meade as “a made-up expert in a made-up field talking about a made-up event.” Christopher M. Graney, a professor with the Vatican Observatory Foundation, noted that the supposedly unique event was, in fact, quite common, having occurred four times in the last millennium. His September 23rd theories were also debunked by Time writer Jeff Kluger. Brazilian astronomer Duília de Mello called his predictions and theories rubbish, and also said Nibiru would have been seen during the eclipse and that Meade was using calculations based on the Gregorian calendar.
After his predictions failed to come true, Meade revised them and declared that Nibiru would arrive on 5 October 2017, not on 23 September. Meade announced that, on 5 October, Nibiru would eclipse the Sun, and North Korea, China, and Russia would launch a combined nuclear attack on the United States. Then, the earth would be devastated by a series of magnitude 9.8 earthquakes, the earth’s magnetic pole would shift by 30 degrees, the United States would be split in half, and Barack Obama would be elected president for an unconstitutional third term. He predicted that the seven-year Great Tribulation would begin on 15 October.
When October came, another apocalyptic writer, Terral Croft, predicted the arrival of Nibiru for November 19, a prediction again reported in the British tabloid press. Croft describes Nibiru as a “black star” at the edge of our Solar System, which, rather than colliding with Earth, would form an apocalyptic conjunction with Earth, leading to massive earthquakes. Croft claimed that earthquakes have been increasing worldwide in the leadup to the conjunction, though The Washington Post, quoting the United States Geological Survey, was quick to point out that earthquakes had decreased in both power and frequency over the year. Paul Begley, a YouTube conspiracy theorist and pastor at the Community Gospel Baptist Church in Knox, Indiana, also predicted in one of his YouTube videos that Nibiru would appear in 2017 and declared that the solar eclipse was a sign of the apocalypse and the rogue planet. Around 12 April 2018, Meade cited an alleged 23 April astrological conjunction in Virgo and predicted that Nibiru would appear during the conjunction and presage the Rapture; Space.com needled that nothing resembling such a conjunction is actually forecast for 23 April.
Astronomers reject the idea of Nibiru, and have made efforts to inform the public that there is no threat to Earth. They point out that such an object so close to Earth would be easily visible to the naked eye, and would create noticeable effects in the orbits of the outer planets. Most photographs purporting to show “Nibiru” beside the Sun are lens flares, false images of the Sun created by reflections within the lens. Claims that the object has been concealed behind the Sun are untenable.
An orbit like that of Nibiru within our Solar System is inconsistent with celestial mechanics. David Morrison, NASA space scientist explains that after just one previous flyby of Earth, such as they claim happened in Sumerian times, Earth itself would no longer be in its current near circular orbit and would be likely to have lost its Moon. If Nibiru were a brown dwarf it would have even worse effects, as brown dwarfs are far more massive. Since Pluto is now frequently observed by backyard telescopes, any giant planet beyond Pluto would be easily observed by an amateur astronomer. And if such an object existed in our Solar System, it would have passed through the inner Solar System a million times by now.
Astronomer Mike Brown notes that if this object’s orbit were as described, it would only have remained in the Solar System for about a million years before Jupiter expelled it, and, even if such a planet existed, its magnetic field would have no effect on Earth’s. Lieder’s assertions that the approach of Nibiru would cause the Earth’s rotation to stop or its axis to shift violate the laws of physics. In his rebuttal of Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision, which made the same claim that the Earth’s rotation could be stopped and then restarted, Carl Sagan noted that, “the energy required to brake the Earth is not enough to melt it, although it would result in a noticeable increase in temperature: The oceans would [be] raised to the boiling point of water… [Also,] how does the Earth get started up again, rotating at approximately the same rate of spin? The Earth cannot do it by itself, because of the law of the conservation of angular momentum.”
In a 2009 interview with the Discovery Channel, Mike Brown noted that, while it is not impossible that the Sun has a distant planetary companion, such an object would have to be lying very far from the observed regions of the Solar System to have no detectable gravitational effect on the other planets. A Mars-sized object could lie undetected at 300 AU (10 times the distance of Neptune); a Jupiter-sized object at 30,000 AU. To travel 1000 AU in two years, an object would need to be moving at 2400 km/s – faster than the galactic escape velocity. At that speed, any object would be shot out of the Solar System, and then out of the Milky Way galaxy into intergalactic space.
Many believers in the imminent approach of Planet X/Nibiru accuse NASA of deliberately covering up visual evidence of its existence. Polls have suggested that many perceive NASA as a vast government agency that receives as much funding as the Department of Defense. In fact NASA’s budget amounts to roughly 0.5% of that of the US government.
One such accusation involves the IRAS infrared space observatory, launched in 1983. The satellite briefly made headlines 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”. This newspaper article has been cited by proponents of the Nibiru cataclysm, beginning with Lieder herself, as evidence for the existence of Nibiru. However, further analysis revealed that of several initially unidentified objects, nine were distant galaxies and the tenth was “galactic cirrus”; none were found to be Solar System bodies.
Another accusation frequently made by websites predicting the collision is that the U.S. government built the South Pole Telescope (SPT) to track Nibiru’s trajectory, and that the object has been imaged optically. However, the SPT (which is not funded by NASA) is a radio telescope, and cannot take optical images. Its South Pole location was chosen due to the low-humidity environment, and there is no way an approaching object could be seen only from the South Pole. The “picture” of Nibiru posted on YouTube was revealed, in fact, to be a Hubble image of the expanding light echo around the star V838 Mon.
Another conspiracy claim regards a patch of missing data in Google Sky near the constellation of Orion, which has often been cited as evidence that Nibiru has been redacted. However, the same region of sky can still be viewed by thousands of amateur astronomers. A scientist at Google said that the missing data is due to a glitch in the stitching software used to piece the images together.
Another piece of claimed evidence drawn from Google Sky is the carbon star CW Leonis, which is the brightest object in the 10 μm infrared sky and is frequently claimed to be Nibiru.
Believers in Planet X/Nibiru have given it many names since it was first proposed. All are, in fact, names for other real, hypothetical or imaginary Solar System objects that bear little resemblance either to the planet described by Lieder or to Nibiru as described by Sitchin.
Lieder drew the name Planet X from the hypothetical planet once searched for by astronomers to account for discrepancies in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. In 1894, Bostonian astronomer Percival Lowell became convinced that the planets Uranus and Neptune had slight discrepancies in their orbits. He concluded that they were being tugged by the gravity of another, more distant planet, which he called “Planet X”. However, nearly a century of searching failed to turn up any evidence for such an object (Pluto was initially believed to be Planet X, but was later determined to be too small).
The discrepancies remained through to the 1990s when the astronomer Robert Harrington put forward his hypothesis for an extra planet beyond Neptune with, as one example, a semi-major axis 101.2 AU and eccentricity 0.411 which makes its perihelion 59.60, so the closest to the Sun it would get is one and a half times the distance to Pluto.
Six months before Harrington died of throat cancer in 1992, astronomer Myles Standish showed that the supposed discrepancies in the planets’ orbits were illusory, the product of overestimating the mass of Neptune. 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 astronomers accept that Planet X, as originally defined, does not exist.
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. This is frequently claimed to be an observation of ‘Nibiru’.
In 1999, New Age author V. M. Rabolu wrote in Hercolubus or Red Planet that Barnard’s star is actually a planet known to the ancients as Hercolubus, which purportedly came dangerously close to Earth in the past, destroying Atlantis, and will come close to Earth again. Lieder subsequently used Rabolu’s ideas to bolster her claims.
Barnard’s star has been directly measured to be 5.98 ± 0.003 light years (56.6 Pm) from Earth. While it is approaching Earth, Barnard’s Star will not make its closest approach to the Sun until around 11,700 AD, when it will approach to within some 3.8 light-years. This is only slightly closer than the closest star to the Sun (Proxima Centauri) lies today.
Believers in Planet X/Nibiru have often confused it with Nemesis, a hypothetical star first proposed by physicist Richard A. Muller. In 1984, Muller postulated that mass extinctions were not random, but appeared to occur in the fossil record with a loose periodicity that ranged from 26 to 34 million years. He attributed this supposed pattern to a heretofore undetected companion to the Sun, either a dim red dwarf or a brown dwarf, lying in an elliptical, 26-million-year orbit. This object, which he named Nemesis, would, once every 26 million years, pass through the Oort cloud, the shell of over a trillion icy objects believed to be the source of long-period comets that orbit at thousands of times Pluto’s distance from the Sun. Nemesis’s gravity would then disturb the comets’ orbits and send them into the inner Solar System, causing the Earth to be bombarded. However, to date no direct evidence of Nemesis has been found. Though the idea of Nemesis appears similar to the Nibiru cataclysm, they are, in fact, very different, as Nemesis, if it existed, would have an orbital period thousands of times longer, and would never come near Earth itself.
Sedna or Eris
Other people also confuse Nibiru with Sedna (90377 Sedna) or Eris (136199 Eris), trans-Neptunian objects discovered by Mike Brown in 2003 and 2005 respectively. However, despite having been described as a “tenth planet” in an early NASA press release, Eris (then known only as 2003 UB313) is now classified as a dwarf planet. Only slightly more massive than Pluto, Eris has a well-determined orbit that never takes it closer to the Earth than 5.5 billion km. Sedna is slightly smaller than Pluto, and never comes closer to Earth than 11.4 billion km. Mike Brown believes the confusion results from both the real Sedna and the imaginary Nibiru having extremely elliptical orbits.
Others have tied it to Tyche, the name proposed by John Matese and Daniel Whitmire of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for an object they believe to be influencing the orbits of comets in the Oort cloud. In February, 2011, Whitmire and his colleagues took their hypothesis to the public in an article in The Independent, in which they named the object “Tyche” and claimed that evidence for its existence would be found once data from the WISE infrared telescope was collated, leading to a spike in calls to astronomers.
The name, after the “good sister” of the Greek goddess Nemesis, was chosen to distinguish it from the similar Nemesis hypothesis as, unlike Nemesis, Matese and Whitmire do not believe that their object poses a threat to Earth. Also, this object, if it exists, would, like Nemesis, have an orbit hundreds of times longer than that proposed for Nibiru, and never come near the inner Solar System. In March 2014, NASA announced that the WISE survey had ruled out the existence of Tyche as its proponents had defined it.
Some associated Nibiru with Comet Elenin, a long-period comet discovered by Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin on December 10, 2010. On October 16, 2011, Elenin made its closest approach to the Earth at a distance of 0.2338 AU (34,980,000 km; 21,730,000 mi), which is slightly closer than the planet Venus. Nevertheless, in the leadup to its closest approach, claims spread on conspiracy websites concluded that it was on a collision course, that it was as large as Jupiter or even a brown dwarf, and even that the name of the discoverer, Leonid Elenin, was in fact code for ELE, or an Extinction Level Event.
Although the sizes of comets are difficult to determine without close observation, Comet Elenin is likely to be less than 10 km in diameter. Elenin himself estimates that the comet nucleus is roughly 3–4 km in diameter. This would make it millions of times smaller than the supposed Nibiru. Comet hysteria is not uncommon. Attempts have been made to correlate Elenin’s alignments with the 2011 Japan earthquake, the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, and 2010 Chile earthquake; however, even discounting Elenin’s tiny size, earthquakes are driven by forces within the earth, and cannot be triggered by the passage of nearby objects. In 2011, Leonid Elenin ran a simulation on his blog in which he increased the mass of the comet to that of a brown dwarf (0.05 solar masses). He demonstrated that its gravity would have caused noticeable changes in the orbit of Saturn years before its arrival in the inner Solar System.
In August, 2011, Comet Elenin began to disintegrate, and by the time of its closest approach in October 2011 the comet was undetected even by large ground-based telescopes.
On 21 September 2012, Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, using the International Scientific Optical Network of telescopes (ISON), discovered the comet C/2012 S1, known as “Comet ISON”. Its orbit was expected to take it within 0.429 AU (64,200,000 km; 39,900,000 mi) of Earth on 26 December 2013. Nonetheless, believers tied it to the Nibiru cataclysm, claiming it would hit the Earth on that date, or that it would fragment and pieces of it would hit the Earth. Images of the “fragments” of the comet circulating on the Internet were shown to be camera artifacts. On April 30, 2013, the Hubble Space Telescope took three pictures of the comet over the course of 12 hours, which were published as a composite in Hubble’s archives. This led to speculation on conspiracy sites that the comet had split into 3 pieces, or even that it was a UFO. After ISON passed perihelion on 28 November, it rapidly began to fade, leaving many to suspect that it had been destroyed as it passed the Sun. While a dim remnant did eventually return round the Sun, it was generally accepted to be a cloud of dust, rather than a solid object. On 2 December 2013, the CIOC (NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign) officially announced that Comet ISON had fully disintegrated. The Hubble Space Telescope failed to detect fragments of ISON on 18 December 2013. On 8 May 2014, a detailed examination of the comet disintegration was published, suggesting that the comet fully disintegrated hours before perihelion.
In March 2014, astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott Sheppard published a paper in Nature arguing that the apparent clustering of the arguments of perihelion of distant trans-Neptunian objects suggested the existence of a large trans-Neptunian planet. On January 20, 2016, Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin announced that they had corroborated Trujillo and Sheppard’s findings, and that they believed the planet, which they dubbed “Planet Nine”, would have a mass roughly ten times that of the Earth, and a semimajor axis of approximately 400–1500 AU (60–225 billion km). Believers in Nibiru and the Nibiru cataclysm immediately argued that this constituted evidence for their claims. However, astronomers pointed out that this planet, if it exists, would have a perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) of roughly 200 AU, or 30 billion km.
In March 2016, believers in the Nibiru cataclysm began to suggest that the month marked the true date for Nibiru’s arrival and the destruction of Earth. That same month, the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society published a paper by Daniel Whitmire (who had proposed the existence of Tyche) in which he reconsidered a modified version of the Nemesis model he had first proposed in 1985 in light of recent speculations concerning the possibility of a trans-Neptunian planet. The hypothesis argues that an object far closer to the Sun than Nemesis could have a similar effect if its orbit precessed at a rate thousands of times slower than its actual speed, which would mean it might only interact with the Kuiper belt every 27 million years, potentially sending comets into the inner Solar System and triggering mass extinctions. However, the paper had been initially published online in November 2015, before Brown and Batygin went public with Planet Nine, and concerns a different object far closer to the Sun (100 AU vs. ~600 AU); Planet Nine, if it exists, is too far away, says Brown, to have such an effect on the Kuiper belt. Nonetheless, an article in the British tabloid The Sun (later republished in the New York Post) conflated the three ideas of Nibiru, Planet Nine, and Whitmire’s planet to suggest that not only had Planet Nine been found, but that it would collide with Earth at the end of April, which resulted in Batygin receiving a spike in panicked calls.
On November 27, 2016, NASA’s NEOWISE project identified 2016 WF9, an Apollo-class near-Earth asteroid that they calculated would pass by Earth on 25 February 2017 at a distance of 0.3407 AU (50,970,000 km; 31,670,000 mi). On 25 January 2017, the British tabloids, initially the Daily Mail, ran a story claiming that “Self-proclaimed Russian astronomer Dr Dyomin Damir Zakharovich” (for whose existence the Daily Mail could not vouch) said that WF9 was in fact a spun off piece of the Nibiru system that was on course to collide with Earth.