Planet X
This is a distant view from the hypothetical Planet Nine (also called Planet X) back towards the sun. The object is thought to be gaseous, similar to Uranus and Neptune. Hypothetical lightning lights up the night side. Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Theories about the imminent advent of doomsday — when humanity, all life on Earth, or the planet itself — will perish are not new, but in recent years, few have appeared as frequently as those associated with Nibiru. This theory, in its current version, claims a large planetary object (called Nibiru) will either collide with Earth or pass very close to it, effectively causing large-scale destruction, and that this would happen sometime in the early 21st century.

Like all bogus pseudoscience, the Nibiru cataclysm theory has evolved since it was first presented in 1995, its believers constantly shifting the predicted date for doomsday after the earlier date had passed. The credit for coming up with the first iteration of the theory goes to Nancy Lieder, a Wisconsin woman, who claimed aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system (the binary star system is very real, located about 39 light-years away) communicated with her using an implant in her brain.

Lieder calls herself the “emissary” of the Zetas, the aliens who supposedly singled her out for that role, and runs a website to relay to Earthlings what the extraterrestrials have to say. She claimed a planet-like object, called Planet X, would pass through the inner solar system in May 2003, and that it would cause a slowdown or stoppage of Earth’s rotation, leading to a shift of the poles and ensuing dangerous conditions on the planet.

That Lieder’s information, whether it comes from Zetas or her imagination, is not accurate is clear, given her other outlandish claims, such as Hale-Bopp not being a comet but a distant star. So her description of Planet X (which has been theorized by some astronomers but is yet to be detected by the most advanced scientific instruments we have) as being four time the size of Earth are highly dubious, at best.

Planet X became conflated with Nibiru at some later point in time. Nibiru was the name given to a hypothetical giant planet with an orbit beyond Neptune, and it made its first appearance in a 1976 book by Zecharia Sitchin, who frequently wrote about extraterrestrial influences on human civilization. He derived his idea of Nibiru from disputed studies of Sumerian mythology, and said the planet had a long, elliptical orbit around the sun that took 3,600 years to complete.

As 2012 drew closer, doomsday theorists began associating the arrival of Nibiru with Dec. 21 of that year. This was based on an apocalyptic interpretation of the ancient Mayan calendar, whose cycle of 5,126 years was ending on that date.

The flawed and bogus theory about Nibiru heading toward Earth was revived once again in 2017, by a conspiracy theorist who uses the pseudonym David Meade. Meade, who calls himself a “Christian numerologist,” has made numerous wrong predictions about the date when Nibiru would collide with Earth. He first said it would happen Sept. 23, 2017, then moved it to October. Among other predictions for October 2017 were people levitating, multiple nuclear attacks on the United States, a shifting of Earth’s poles and a series of earthquakes.

The fact that all his predictions have been wrong, hasn’t stopped Meade from making more of them. After changing the Nibiru cataclysm dates multiple times, his latest prediction is for April 23, a day he claims Earth will be destroyed, and will also lead to the Biblical rapture.

Any theory of a massive planet headed toward Earth has been rejected by space agencies the world over, including NASA. Whatever motivation Lieder and Meade may have for spouting their illogical, unscientific and blatantly false predictions, they are nowhere close to the truth about any catastrophic phenomena, and people would do well to treat them as amusing trivia, at best.

Nibiru, Planet X or any other object that is large enough to be considered a planet would almost certainly be observed by at least one of the hundreds of telescopes we have trained at various parts of the sky. Its effects, due to its substantial gravity, would be felt even by other planets in the solar system, long before it reached Earth, which would also allow us to observe its arrival before it reached us.

If such an event were to actually take place, governments or the scientific community would not be able to keep it a secret — even if they wanted to, as conspiracy theorists like Lieder and Meade claim. There are too many ordinary people with access to information about astronomy, and many space-related discoveries are now being made by citizen scientists. At least one of them would surely ring the alarm bells were another planet on its way to crash into Earth, and unlike the conspiracy theorists, they would provide incontrovertible evidence too.