The Sumerians saw it. The Russians photographed it. NASA saw it, too. And now, eons after it left our world behind as a smoking, lifeless mess, the dreaded Planet X is about to reenter our solar system and mess up our world all over again. Or is it?

They say it triggers earthquakes. That it rips open volcanoes, and unleashes massive tsunamis. They say it can kick the Earth’s axis over, pushing Africa to the pole and Antarctica to the equator. It may even stop our planet from rotating! Or worse: peel the Earth’s crust off, tear our planet to bits. Or perhaps it simply sweeps our world aside, pushing it into the Sun. That’s the way it goes when suddenly, a HUGE planet zooms by. They say.

The demon planet that is supposed to do the trick goes by many names. Some call it Nibiru, or Marduk. Others named it The Ottawa Object, or Vulcan, or Transpluto. But most people prefer X, just X. `Planet X’, to be precise.

Planet X is the supposedly eleventh planet of our solar system. It should be as big as many Earths, dwarfing it perhaps even hundreds of times. Some people think X isn’t even a real planet, but a `brown dwarf’: a massive ball of dust and gas that almost succeeded in becoming a star. Planet X has something no other planet has: a huge orbit. Its orbit around the Sun lasts 3,600 years.  Most of the time, it is far off, invisible to the eye. But every 3,600 years, the lost planet returns. Once here, it accelerates, and swings close past the Sun, disrupting everything it encounters.

And that’s exactly what Planet X is about to do, they say. Right now, it should be somewhere in the outer regions of the solar system, still invisible to our telescopes. But in the spring of 2003, it will suddenly make its appearance. It will be some event. Within months, Planet X will reach the inner regions of the solar system, disturbing the eclipses of the planets and bombarding us with comets. In May, it will pass Earth, missing it only at a few hairs’ lengths. Or, well: hitting us at full force, perhaps.

And that will be it. X will fly off again, not to be seen for another 3,600 years. And our planet? Earth will be bruised and battered, and covered in lava. If there’s anything worth calling a planet left at all, that is.

Planet X: The Real Story

Then again, maybe nothing happens at all in 2003. You see, Planet X is like the perfect myth: the outcome of centuries of ill-omened rumors, laced with snippets of history and cosmology. But: it is still myth. Dream stuff.

It all began with a tablet of clay, uncovered in the Near East many years ago. On the tablet, the Sumerians, the earliest known inhabitants of the Middle East, jotted down something that looked like a solar system. Earth was there, and Saturn, and Jupiter -- as well as all other planets we know of today. But hey, aren’t there supposed to be nine planets? The clay tablet clearly displays eleven. The tenth one could be the moon, or the newly discovered mini-planet Sedna. But that still leaves you with one planet too many. Weird, isn’t it?

Ten: The famous `Berlin seal', displaying one planet too many.

Next came the astronomers. From the 1840s until deep into the 1980s, astronomy was haunted by a strange mystery. Something was not right with the orbits of the outer planets. Something really heavy seemed to be tugging at the outer planets Uranus and Neptune. Certain asteroids felt the mysterious pull, too. Must be an enormous planet out there, many astronomers assumed. Or several planets, even. This was how Planet X got its name: the term `X’ comes from the early-twentieth century astronomer Percival Lowell, best known for his study of the `canals’ on Mars.

But eventually, in the 1980s and 1990s, the riddle was solved. There appeared to be no mystery planet involved at all. Neither is there some mysterious force pulling on Neptune’s orbit. The astronomers simply had their orbit calculations wrong. But with better techniques, it all added up. By now, no serious astronomer believes in Planet X anymore. Exit Planet X.

But it was too late already. The Planet X-story had started to lead a life of its own. The breakthrough came in 1976, when a new age-writer by the name of Zecharia Sitchin linked the Planet X-problem of the astronomers up with Sumerian and Babylonian mythology.

Enter Sumerian religion. Like most people, the Sumerians had a lot of pretty neat stories about how the Earth came about. In one of them, it all began with a family quarrel between two gods, Tiamat and Marduk. The two picked a fight, and Marduk won. Pissed off as he was, Marduk  cut Tiamat to bits. From the body parts he created our world. This leg here is the sky; that arm there, that'll be the land.

But Sitchin turned the story upside-down. To his opinion, the Sumerians were actually describing an ancient cosmic disaster. A collision between our own planet (Tiamat), and Marduk -- which was, of course, the mystery planet from the clay tablet, a.k.a. Planet X. Adds up nice, right?

Well: it doesn't. For one thing, Sitchin's translations of the Sumerian texts were terrible - for example, he got the word for `planet' wrong. And the words Nibiru and Marduk? Marduk was, besides a god, a nickname for the planet Jupiter. `Nibiru' simply means `ferry boat' and was sometimes used to describe... Jupiter! So in fact, what Sitchin holds for Planet X is simply good old Jupiter.

The astronomical side of the story is no good, either. A planet with a highly elliptic orbit of 3,600 years would after a few rotations fly off, direction deep space - or just become part of the 'normal' solar system. It is simply impossible there is a Planet X around. Physics forbids it, just like it forbids apples from falling upwards.

But how about the ten planets on the Sumerian tablet? That's decoration, probably. Or it could be Venus, as seen from Earth, and surrounded by stars. There are many, many clay tablets exactly like this one, and they all display funny little drawings in the corners: crosses, moons, stars -- you name it. So there's no need to think anything special of the `planets'. We can be sure of one thing, though: it isn't a astronomical map. The Sumerians believed our planet was a flat disc, they didn't believe the planets rotated around the Sun, and they had no way of seeing  the outer planets Neptune, Pluto and Quaovar.

Still, Sitchins book was a bestseller, and Planet X gained quite a following on Earth. It still has. Some believe Planet X is an inhabited planet, inhabited by Atlantians, or pyramid-builders, or little green men, or... well, you know, that sort of thing. Even today, there are people around who claim they are in `telepathic contact’ with the inhabitants of the planet. Sigh... Some people will simply believe anything!

Aw... Hold it now. Is that all? Well, there’s this other thing. For in fact, Planet X has been spotted by NASA! In 1983, two astronomers named Neugebauer and Houck made headlines with their announcement that they had discovered a `Jupiter-sized planet’, cruising the galaxy at a distance of two billion kilometers from the Sun.

But: the headlines were wrong. What Neugebauer and Houck really told the press was that they discovered an irregularity in the infrared spectrum. It could be almost anything, they stated, ranging from a new planet to a distant galaxy. The press obviously preferred the planet. But after a while it became clear that what the astronomers really saw was a distant galaxy.

By now, numerous pictures, news clippings and remarkable facts `proving’ the existence of the dreaded Planet X are circulating the Net. But don’t stock on tin cans: they're all bogus (for the details, check out the fact sheet at the bottom of this page).

It is at this point many Planet X-believers resort to gossip and childish, X-filish conspiracy theory. According to one particular rumor, the astronomers hold back all information regarding  Nibiru. The Russians would have taken photos of Planet X, including affirmed alien space ships hovering over its surface (see pictures below). Another rumor has it the coming of Planet X is covered up by hushy governments -- isn’t that why so many observatories are closed down for maintenance? Oh, sure! You must have a Sumerian clay tablet for a brain to buy stuff like that!

So: Planet-Ex?

You guessed it. If they ever start telling you about Planet-X, laugh your wits off. Don’t take any precautions – there’s no need. Planet X doesn’t exist. Never has. Never will. Off with you, Nibiru. Shoo.

[ Credit: For the Sumerian part of the story, Exit Mundi owes a great deal to Wilfred van Soldt, an expert on Mesopotamian astronomy at Leiden University who was willing to look into the case. Also, Exit Mundi consulted Frank Israel, an astronomer at the same university. The insight they offered is invaluable, thanks! ]


Ultimate Evidence? - On the Internet, there's a picture circulating that's supposedly `secret evidence' from Russia, proving Planet X is an inhabited world. The makers took the original photo (top left), enlarged it, and upgraded it with `solarize' and `find edges'. And look... Suddenly, you see all kinds of spaceships orbiting the planet! (top right)
I followed exactly the same procedure, using a photo of one Robert Bridson, math student at Stanford University (below, left). After enlarging and solarizing the photograph, it became clear that mr. Bridsons left ear actually is inhabited by intelligent beings, since there clearly is a spaceship taking off from it (below, right).


The `Evidence’

The Facts

- There could be such a thing as a Planet X around.

No, that's impossible. Planet X is said to have a highly elliptical orbit. But such orbits are unstable. Soon, the planet would get a circular orbit and become part of the 'normal' solar system - or it would fly off into deep space. There just is no other way.

- Sumerian mythology tells of a collision between two planets.

No, it doesn’t. In one particular Sumerian creation story, Earth is created after a violent conflict between Tiamat and Nibiru. But neither of them is a planet: they’re gods, the two of them. It was the writer Zecharia Sitchin who introduced the planets, not the Sumerians.

- The Sumerians knew of a planet they called `Nibiru'. Wrong. `Nibiru' is just the ancient word for  `ferry boat'. In some Babylonian texts,  the word `nibiru' is used to describe the movement of the planet Jupiter - which was also called `Marduk'. So neither Nibiru nor Marduk refers to some weird planet. It just means: Jupiter! Nothing more, nothing less.
- The Sumerians knew very much about cosmology. That’s why you should take it serious when they say there is a Planet X around. Wrong. Indeed, the Sumerians had the same amount of brain as we have. But they weren’t interested in astronomy at all. That came later, with the Babylonian civilization. And even then, the Babylonians believed Earth was a disk, with the Sun revolving around it! Just look at it this way: the Greek, the Chinese  and the Maya knew lot more about cosmology than the Babylonians and the Sumerians– and they never mentioned a tenth planet!
- The Sumerians had a pictorial word, `shar', that means `planet', `orbit' and `3,600'. This must refer to the fact that Planet X has an orbit time of 3,600 years.  Far from it.  'Shar' means '3,600' alright. But in another language, Akkadian, there was a pictorial 'sharru' which meant 'Marduk' or 'supreme ruler'  -- and nót `planet'.  The mixing up of two completely different languages, once again, comes from Sitchin.
- The Babylonians frequently used the letter `X'. This means: `planet of the crossing'. No, it doesn't. The Babylonians used X much like we do: to mark things. In specific, they used X's to mark their kettle. But the X doesn't refer to anything that has to do with planets.

- Planet X must have slammed into our world: that’s why the once-joined continents are split up and floating away from each other.

Total nonsense. The force that pushes the continents apart doesn't come from outer space – but from deep underneath the Earth’s crust. In the Atlantic, new seabed is constantly being formed, and this pushes the continents apart.

- Still, something huge did slam into our planet – modern science agrees on that.

Yes, but that particular event took place 4,5 billion years ago. In those days, a huge heavenly body cleft our planet in two, creating the Moon. But there weren’t even single-celled bacteria around at that time. Let alone Sumerians with clay tablets to write about the event.

- But the Sumerians were in contact with an alien race. They told them all about Planet X.

There is not a shred of evidence to support such hocus-pocus. Think of it this way: if the ancient Sumerians indeed were such good friends with an alien race, then why didn’t they even have the technology to prevent their culture from being run over again and again by invading neighbors? The Sumerians were pretty simple, rudimentary farmers that lived off of the land.

- But still, there's the `Berlin Seal' (also known as the `Akkadian Seal'). On it, you clearly see more planets than there are in our solar system:

But what you see isn't a map of the solar system at all.  It's decoration, probably. Or a picture of Venus, as seen from our planet, and surrounded by stars. The ancient Babylonians made funny little drawings like this all the time. And they all looked different. So it's just coincidence this one resembles a solar system.
We do know for sure that it isn't a map, because the Babylonians believed the Earth was the center of the solar system. No Babylonian would have placed the Sun in the center. Besides, the `map' is full of errors. The planets are out of proportions and Saturn has no ring. And obviously, there are too many `planets'.

- Joshua tells of a `long day’ – while the West Coast Indians have stories of a `long night’. That’s a clear indication the planet stopped rotating for a while when Planet X last came by.

No, that is impossible. Planets cannot just stop rotating for a while and then start again. Physics forbids it. And hey, if you'd read enough ancient writings, you would find `evidence’ for almost anything!

- Still, around 3,600 years ago, something awful did happen. There's a lot of evidence telling us that the world was struck by disaster. Yes, but a volcano and not Planet X was the culprit. Around 1628 BC, the Greek volcano of Thera erupted, causing darkness even in China and a sudden, sharp climate drop all over the world. That's bad enough, but eruptions like these happen all the time. What's more, Thera was still a relatively small volcano, as you can read elsewhere on this site. It is worth noting that none of the ancient texts about the Thera disaster mentions anything about unusual events in the sky.

- Many astronomers believe Planet X exists. And for good reason: there’s some mysterious object tugging at the orbits of Neptune and the outer asteroids.

Not anymore they do. Indeed, for almost 150 years, astronomers assumed there could very well be another planet out there. But by now, we know that the astronomers were wrong. They simply didn't have the orbits of the outer planets correct, because they lacked the tools. By now, we know there is nothing strange about the orbits of the outer planets. And since then, the calculations add up fine.

- There's good geological evidence for Planet X. Once in a while, Earth is struck by mass extinctions. These extinctions show a very regular pattern, suggesting the planet is struck by disaster periodically. Not true. Indeed, in 1984, two renowned palaeologists claimed the discovery of an `extinction pattern'. Every 26 to 30 million years, there's a `wave' of extinctions. But they withdrew that theory later. When you look over a longer period of time, there's no pattern to be found at all. Besides, the palaeologists weren't thinking of Planet X -- but of a twin Sun called Nemesis.

- NASA has photographed Planet X in 1983

No, they haven’t. In 1983, the IRAS satellite spotted something unexplained that turned out to be a new type of very distant galaxy. But for lack of anything better, the press concluded that NASA had spotted a tenth planet.

- The Russians have photographed Planet X in their `Norlock’-project.

That’s a hoax. There’s no such thing as a secret project called Norlock. The hoax was set up by someone claiming to be an anonymous Russian scientist who had `finally decided to share this important information with the world.’ Yeah, sure.

- This is Planet X: 

Nope. It's Io, moon of Jupiter. The picture was taken by the Hubble Telescope in June 1997.

- This is Planet X:

It's a hoax: the resolution of the planet differs from the resolution of the surrounding galaxy.

- This is Planet X:

Nope. It's exactly what it looks like: a bad space photo with a vague dot in it, thousands of times too faint to be a nearby planet. It's a distant star, probably.

- Planet X is definitely closing in. You can tell by looking at the volcanic activity. Over the last few years, this has been increasing.

Total rubbish.
Even if there were a huge Planet X heading our way, it wouldn’t affect our volcanoes. The gravitational effect of Planet X would be only a tiny fraction of the gravity of Jupiter. And that, in turn, is just a tiny fraction of the gravitational pull the Sun and the Moon exert on our planet every moment of the day.
Indeed, volcanic activity slightly increased over the years 1970-2000. But that may be coincidence, or, more likely, the result of more accurate equipment.

 If you think you have other `evidence', you'll let me know, right?








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