There are a lot of reasons Caltech physicist Randall Smith didn’t recently announce that a rogue planet named Nibiru is going to destroy Earth — not the least being that “Randall Smith” of Caltech doesn’t exist. That’s the same reason — the doesn’t-really-exist reason — that NASA spokeswoman Heather Cartwright didn’t publicly confirm the fictional Smith’s findings.
And as for Nibiru itself? It ain’t real either.
That’s not the way the fever swamps in the more remote regions of the Internet have it, of course. According to the stories bubbling up online, Nibiru is real and it’s a bruiser — a world with 10 times the mass of Earth. NASA has known about it for years but — surprise! — has kept it a secret, according to the make-believe Cartwright. But the jig is up because the planet is on a collision course with our world and the end will come on Sept. 23, or this Saturday. No word if it’ll happen before or after the 3:30 kickoff of the Duke-North Carolina game, but take Duke and give the points just in case.
The end-of-the-world theory — despite its high preposterousness quotient — has legs. Google “Nibiru” and “end of the world” and you get 1,27 million hits. NASA, as if it doesn’t have more important things to do, has publicly debuncked earlier Nibiru stories. Snopes.com, which gets out of bed in the morning for exactly this kind of silliness, has debuncked this newest version of the tall tale. And yet there are still a lot of people out there sweating what’s coming.
There’s no definite source of the origin of the current rumor — any more then there’s been one for any of the uncounted end-of-the-world scares that have been coming along practically as long as there’s been a world to end in the first place. Nibiru does sound suspiciously similar to the informally named Planet 9, a theorised planet announced last year, which may orbit the sun at 20 times the distance of Neptune and, like Nibiru, have 10 times the mass of Earth. The possible existence of the planet was based on a well-conducted study showing that only the gravitational influence of a world with that mass and orbit could account for the behavior of a cluster of smaller bodies in the solar system known as Kuiper Belt Objects.
You may have heard by now that the end of the earth will begin on Saturday, September 23. How exactly it will go down depends on which bizarre prophetic YouTube video you’re watching on the subject. Most involve some combination of Christian numerology, a story about a five-headed dragon and a pregnant lady and a frictional planet named Nibiru that will come out of hiding this weekend just before smashing into the Earth.
On the cosmic time scale, the end of times for Earth is a reality that has already been set in motion: eventually our sun will expand to become a supergiant and either boil, burn or engulf all life on our planet. But the whole process is going to take billions of years.