Thursday, May 15, 2008

Planet X (Or Nemesis Star)

When I was about 7 years old we had this globe. I loved that globe with a passion. I don't know why, but I just did. I used to spin it around and run my fingers across the fancy raised mountain ranges and dream about going other places.

One day, I was staring at the globe and I said, hey mom... the earth looks like a big puzzle. I think that maybe all the continents were together at one time. Don't you think? I just remember my mom and dad looking at each other.

Two years later we moved. I lay in bed one night and added up the age of the earth. I had just learned that the earth was supposedly billions of years old and yet, the bible seemed to only add up to several thousand years. And then there was all that flooding business and the rainbow. Well, according to my science book, the rainbow was just light refracting off of water. And good lord, what about the dinosaurs?

A year after that, my dad gave me Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I don't think there has been a book that has more captured my imagination. I used to lay in bed and study all the cool pictures and imagine what it would be like to go there. We had just moved the second time to Indiana, and I'm not sure if you know this, but Indiana has some spectacular starry skies. So I would sit out on the back porch and pick a big glowing star and imagine going there in an instant.

Then of course came all the other celestial stories in the bible that didn't seem to make senses. The sun standing still, fire from the sky... the star of Bethlehem... They always bothered me because I had learned that things like that... well, the don't just happen.

Fast forward through about 15 years of doubt and faith... to my geology class in undergrad. I took the class because I thought it was going to be a blow off. Nay, it was not. In fact, outside of my Astronomy lab, it was the most difficult course in my whole undergrad. But one thing stuck from that class. They professor's views on Global warming. He was a published Geologist that would teach a semester and then go out and do... important... geology stuff. His view of mankind being responsible for global warming was this: Hogwash. Before you get riled up, the man was an atheist democrat as well. Anyways, he said that the world's climate goes in cycles. And that civilization has just been lucking out for the past 8 thousand years or so. And even then, a few hundred years ago the earth's climate was about 20 degrees colder. What he did say, was that they really don't know what causes the abrupt changes. They really don't have a definitive answer for plate tectonics. The moon just doesn't have that kind of power, and the sun pulls even less on the earth. That's why they try to explain it all happening in million or billion year time periods. However, even that is full of holes. What' even weirder is that the other planets seem to be heating up as well.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.

There are two theories about planet x. One the scientists don't have much of a problem with, and the other, well, for some reason, they don't like it.

First is the Nemesis Star theory. It goes a little something like this: One day, the dinosaur big-wig scientists were all sitting around a table and realized that the big extinctions tend to happen on a cyclical basis. Every several hundred million years or so. So, a few scientists came up with a not-so-crazy idea: First, that our sun isn't that much different than all the other stars in the sky in that it is actually binary. Most stars are. We've always thought that our sun is a little weird that way, and if it is a single star, then it is. So these scientist believe that every several hundred million years, our twin star, an failed star called a brown dwarf, makes its way on a long elliptical orbit towards us. It drags along a bunch of comets and meteorites in its wake, and bombards the earth with some big ones. The theory, is quite possible. This, they say, wipes pretty much everything out every several hundred million years.

The second one, scientists don't like. It is the planet x theory: Its proponents say that the orbit is much shorter. About every 3600 years and would put the next fly by at 2012. They say that it could even cause the earth to stop rotating for a day or two. It would also, probably cause quite a bit of earth quakes and probably a huge flood. (Just imagine what the moon does to the tides.) Then, that reminded me of a few story in the bible, Joshua. So, I did a little search and according to the biblical archaeological timeline, Joshua kicked some but about 1480 B.C. And, around the same time, on the other side of the planet, they Mayans wrote of the sun disappearing for a day or two. They cast bets on where it would rise. Weeeeeellll, that pretty much goes in line with the 3600 year fly by. Then of course, there's the flood that was probably about 3600 years before that, and wiped out the ancient Sumerian civilization, which happened to be a more advanced culture than the Egyptians. And I won't even begin to talk about how they talked about a 10th planet, they called, "the destroyer." (They were very advanced astronomers.) It's just gotta make you wonder if Noah wasn't some kick-butt Sumerian astronomer. Sort of like Superman's dad on Krypton.

Anyways, a more recent flyby by a brown dwarf twin on an elliptical orbit, makes some sense to me. It makes sense as to why the sun is throwing big friggin storms our way. It makes sense why the other planets are heating up. It makes sense of our extreme plate tectonics. It makes sense as to why our polar caps seem to take random shifts every 10000 years or so. (That Woolly mammoth they found in Siberia... it had tropical leaves in its jaws. Something froze that sucker where it stood, or it drown and froze quick.) It makes sense of all the ancient documents like the bible talking about these huge, world-wide disasters. It makes sense of the flood, and the sun standing still in the sky. It makes of why civilization is so very, very young.

Also, when the first planet X theories started to rise, scientists didn't want to believe it. Then in about 1983, they pointed a large infrared telescope and the papers where filled with the headlines: "Planet X discovered." Mysteriously, the next week the papers went silent. Then they came out with a report that it was probably just a hazy, un-formed galaxy. Shortly after, the U.S. government started work on a HONKING huge infrared telescope on the south pole, pissing all of our friends in other countries off. I don't know... it all sounds fishy to me.

So what do you guys think? Possible? Thoughts? It is weird to me that scientists don't have a problem with the Nemesis star swinging our way every few hundred million years, but they do when you start talking about 3600 years. Fun to think about...


Electric Monk said...

I have a friend, a very smart friend, who has a Master's in planetary geology. She's convinced that life began on Mars and then traveled to Earth on a meteorite (a theory known as exogenesis). The idea is certainly possible, but the problem is that no matter how well-described the mechanisms are, it doesn't hold water if there's no evidence that it actually happened. Just because something COULD happen doesn't mean squat in terms of whether it actually DID happen.

That's the problem with the Planet X/Brown Dwarf theory. It's a mechanism that COULD explain how things happened, but there's no evidence that shows it DID happen. No one has tied more than maybe two cycles of disasters to certain time periods, certainly no one has actually found this brown dwarf or mystery planet. It's an interesting idea in theory, but until someone lays eyes on the mysterious gravitational body, it's nothing but a theory.

BTW, I'm really curious how a mass passing near the Earth could cause it to stop spinning for a short time. Even if something were really massive, it would have to get PRETTY close to the earth to cause continents to shift, global flooding, worldwide extinctions, etc...

Bill Hensley said...

Seth, if I understand your next-to-last paragraph correctly, you are implying some sort of government coverup about the evidence for Planet X. I'm pretty skeptical about all such conspiracy theories. There are so many of them and they seem uniformly implausible to me. I have tried to understand why conspiracy theories have become so popular in our culture over the past few decades. Perhaps the Kennedy assassination was the trigger. Maybe the Watergate crisis gave it a boost. Then Hollywood latched onto it and it's now a standard part of our folklore that the government/military/corporations are all run by nefarious schemers bent on world destruction, or whatever.

I think a simpler theory is more likely correct. There really is no evidence for Planet X, as Electric Monk has commented, and therefore very few scientists take the theory seriously.

Bill Hensley said...

BTW, I haven't heard anything about an IR telescope at the South Pole, but NASA is building the James Web Space Telescope as a replacement for the Hubble. It will be sensitive in the IR and visible ranges. Hubble was sensitive in the visible and UV, if I recall correctly. So the James Webb should be a good instrument to look for brown dwarfs.

majorsteve said...

Yes, fun to think about. Scientific consensus is a weird thing. For instance there is a “consensus” among astronomers and other scientists that planet X does not exist and yet there are plenty of people who are willing to dismiss the consensus in order to continue thinking a certain way. But when it comes to the theory of man made global warming scientific“consensus” suddenly becomes unassailable truth.

Seth Ward said...

I see the points made here... however, I would argue that you can't actually "see" gravity, yet you see its effects. Scientists make there observations and assessments from those effects. Right?

I my opinion, a double star system with a dangling brown dwarf in an eliptical orbit explains a bunch. I truly believe that this is scoffed at because of the implications. There's really nothing we could do about a big planet heading our way. Asteroids? Sure.

Also, scientists so readily accept the moon's origins being a collision of two worlds, long ago, yet rule out the possibility of a double star, one of the most common features of our universe.

To me, it doesn't seem very far-fetched, and I don't think the theory has been given a fair shake because of doomsday idiots and weirdos mucking up the works.

Any astronomer will tell you that space is not a friendly place, and that the Earth has gone under some seriously catastrophic changes, even in recent history. I even think this whole global warming scare is something was would rather believe than be at the mercy of an agitated sun. CO2 emissions? We can handle those. The sun? uhhhh. Not much to do there but pray for the best. Same thing with planet x.

Here is the link to the SPT. (South Pole Telescope)

About conspiracy theories... I steer clear of those as well. I'm talking about taking more serious the notion of a failed double star out there and comparing it to all the cyclical knowledge of history Earth's. To me, that is just flat-out interesting. Considering the implications, I would consider the theory with more seriousness since Everything about space and our solar system is rythmic and cyclical.

About the rotation stopping, yes it would have to be big and close. Probably something the size of Jupiter coming as close as mars or Venus would do it. But THAT, is a stretch. The only evidence for that would be something out of the bible or other cultural records. Not science. However, cyclical extinctions, polar shifts, plate tectonics, gravitational perturbations... all that stuff sounds like stuff that one could use to prove a planet x possibility. Hey, the did the same thing with the theory about the moon...

Majorsteve, no kidding!

Bill Hensley said...

About the rotation stopping, yes it would have to be big and close. Probably something the size of Jupiter coming as close as mars or Venus would do it.

I don't think you're going to find any natural phenomenon that could explain the sun stopping in the sky for a day. Even if you could imagine a mechanism to stop the rotation, it's hard to imagine what would restart it. Best to chalk that one up as a miracle.

A close pass by a large planetary body could generate large tides, which could cause coastal flooding. But it would have to come really close. You can use the moon as a benchmark. It is mainly responsible for the regular ocean tides. The sun produces some of the tidal action, but the moon produces most of it. Planet X would have to be much larger than the moon and/or come much closer to the earth than the moon does. Remember that gravity is proportional to mass but inversely proportional to the square of the distance. So a planet-sized body no closer than Mars would produce tidal effects comparable to what Mars does -- i.e., zilch.

If it got close enough to generate a large tidal effect it might do more than just slosh the oceans around. You could imagine earthquakes and even volcanic eruptions might result. It would also perturb Earth's orbit. But I'm not sure how it could cause significant tectonic action in a brief flyby.

Floods, earthquakes and volcanoes all happen without close encounters with rogue planets. One does not need to invoke Planet X to explain them. The only way to really make the case is to 1) show that these phenomena exhibit a strong periodicity in the geologic record, and 2) find a candidate object in the solar system. I think the evidence is weak for 1) and nonexistent for 2), and that is why I believe most scientists are skeptical. That doesn't mean it's wrong to look for such evidence, just that I don't think it's been found yet.

Seth Ward said...

Great post, Bill! Good stuff to know. Poor citing on my part of size and distance. Will check sources before quoting from memory... Apologies. According to Planet X proponents, the orbit somehow intersects between the Earth and the Sun...

I can't find the original documents with the math calculations... but here are a few things I found interesting, just on a quick search, written by scientists theorizing about planet x. (I think these were originally published back in the 80's when planet x theories weren't thought of with such suspicion.) What do you think?

"After [Planet X] passes, the Earth's rotation begins again due to the factors that guide rotation of the planets in your solar system. Many people assume
rotation to be simply leftover motion resulting from some past activity such as the big bang, but rotation is guided by gravitational and electromagnetic influences on the liquid cores of planets and moons. Parts of the core move away from or toward these influences, dragging the crust with it, and as the turning motion brings those parts of the core back to where they don't want to be, motion is re-instituted and continued. For the Earth, frozen in place at the moment of passage, rotation begins again within a day after the 12th Planet moves from its influential place between the Earth and the Sun. Rotation restarts, at first slowly but then picking up speed until a day on planet Earth is much as it used to be. Just as rotation stops within a day, just so rotation returns within a day, much to the relief of the frantic survivors who fear the long day or night they have been experiencing will never end."

"The Book of Joshua, compiled from the more ancient Book of Jasher, states that the sun stood still over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Ajalon. This descriptions of the position of the luminaries implies that the sun was in the forenoon position. The Book of Joshua says that the luminaries stood in the midst of the sky. Allowing for the difference in longitude, it must have been early morning or night in the Western Hemisphere. We go to the shelf where stand books with the historical traditions of the aborigines of Central America. The sailors of Columbus and Cortes, arriving in America, found there literate peoples who had books of their own.In the Mexican Annals of Cuauhtitlan, written in Nahua-Indian, it is related that during a cosmic catastrophe that occurred in the remote past, the night did not end for a long time. Sahagun, the Spanish savant who came to America a generation after Columbus and gathered the traditions of the aborigines, wrote that at the time of one cosmic catastrophe the sun rose only a little way over the horizon and remained there without moving. The moon also stood still. The biblical stories were not know to the aborigines. Also, the tradition preserved by Sahagun bears no trace of having been introduced by the missionaries."

More on rotation and orbit perturbations from a scientific paper:

"As Hoagland notes, something strange is indeed happening in the solar system. One of the effects is that the official Cesium Atomic Clock has had to be adjusted by over 20 seconds in the last two decades; approximately a full second every six months. The official atomic clock is supposedly theoretically stable to plus or minus one second in a million years. To Hoagland, this suggests that a progressive phase-shift is occurring between the Earth's rotation and the atomic-level constants that govern the quantum standards of the atomic clock. The growing difference between dynamic time and atomic time is compelling evidence of large scale changes in the hyperspatial physics of the solar system. It is possible, Hoagland explains, that hyperspatial stresses are due to the progressive orbital movement of as-yet undiscovered outer planets, which are causing increasing scalar potential changes across the entire solar system at the atomic level. The reason the clocks are changing, however, is because the Earth's rotation is changing. It is essentially slowing down due to changing phase relationships between undiscovered outer planets in the outer solar system! There can be no doubt that something is out there! And this something is quite capable of "making and remaking" the Earth, including seriously affecting the orbital rotation time of the planet."

amoslanka said...

I especially agree with majorsteve that its awfully fishy when the very nature (no pun intended) of science, espeically in astronomy and the ideas surrounding the age of the earth and it climate, relies so heavily on attempting to understand the things that we don't understand. there are things that can be tested and evidence can be found for, like gravity, but the scale of the issue of earth's climate is so much bigger than that. I should say, so much more complex. There's so many different things at play, and its (in my opinion) awefully arrogant to think that we tiny specks here on earth can really see beyond the big picture and understand something so vast as our earth, let alone the universe beyond it.
Not only that, but it seems awefully silly that a "consensus" (so they say) among scientists would directly prove a theory as fact.

Its good to hear about your undergrad professor who thinks its ridiculous that global warming is man made. Its good to hear that the smartest people out there don't all think or believe in something that occurs to me to be much more of a political ploy and social fad. "Going green" definitely has some good intention behind it and is good for the environment, but there's plenty of bs behind it, along with the silliness of how little good it actually does vs. the gigantic scale of earth's climate and natural activity.

euphrony said...

Seth, have you ever read Asimov's book Nemisis? It revolves around the idea of a passing star disrupting the solar system (and other things).

I see that in my prolonged absence from serious blogging that others have stepped in to explain the science that I normally do. Bill is quite correct on the inverse square relationship to distance - passage would have to be extremely close or mass enormous to have major effect.

One thing I note in the explanation you quoted for the earth's rotation resuming is the rapidity that they seem to assume. They assume that the crust stops rotation, but not the core - which is not so hard to believe. The core's rotation would pull the mantle, and the friction of the mantle moving against the crust would force it to move. However, I cannot see offhand how it would resume rotation in anything resembling a standard day for many years. People would talk about the day the sun stood still and then moved slowly across the sky for years after. I could be wrong . . .

Seth Ward said...

I lOVE scientists! Euphrony, I have missed your brain. One of my favorite things is to be debunked by scientists.

I have this science genius friend in California and one of my favorite things to do is to sit around and learn stuff from him. I ask him a big bunch of questions and try to stump him but he's not easily stumped. And if he is, he's perfectly fine with being stumped. After all, part of being a scientist is the joy of being stumped and figuring it out.

Mystery gives wind to the sails of discovery. -my corny made-up quote for the day.

Seth Ward said...

And no, I haven't read that book. I will be checking it out shortly. Thanks for the tip! I think I did see him talking about it on the History Chanel's series "The Universe."

Anonymous said...


MamasBoy said...

If it made a revolution every 3600 years, then it would travel 1 degree every 10 years (assuming a circular orbit and varying slightly for elliptical ones). Given the closeness of the star, I would think that this would be very measurable (and obvious). There does not appear to be any indication that something like this has been seen, so I think there is no chance of our star being a double, at least not for the time frame proposed.


Anonymous said...

(in responce to the last post) well is something as massive as this (in other pages said to b close or bigger than jupiter) that it would easily have its own magnetic pull. so in my own idea if it did or was true then i feel that not only would we stop spinning but (as said that asteroids fallow our binary star) what if we began to fallow it. if (by chance) its g-pull is greater than that of our sun. it would be possible that (if weaker than stated) that we would stop our spin for 2-3 days what if it spun us in a different way. what if we ended up on our side like uranus. i mean it is possible that this is could stop our spin...if it is real

Anonymous said...

This will be my only post. My family has been into deep coal mining for years. The Anomalies that are found in the deep mines are astonding.Walls of bunker type construction running next to coal vains 25 million years old indicate that some type of preperation for the object headed for earth has been done before. With very little if any success I might add. Objects found around these walls are made of allows unknown to us today.The government is shuting down those mines and deem them unsafe.