Richard Goodwin – ForteanTimes July 2010
The idea of Planet X isn’t a new one; scientists have been actively pursuing its presence in our galaxy for the best part of 100 years now.
One of the first was astronomer Clyde W Tombaugh, who inadvertently discovered Pluto – which he initially gave the temporary name ‘Planet X’ for 10th planet – while scanning the skies for a Neptune-sized body causing anomalies in both Uranus’s and Neptune’s orbits during the 1930s. Unfortunately for Tombaugh, Pluto was far too small – a mere 0.2 per cent the size of Earth – to exert the force required to create such anomalies.
However, Planet X returned to infamy once again during the 1980s in the work of American physicist Richard A Muller, who proposed in his book Nemesis: The Death Star (1984) that a giant planet on an elongated orbit, known as ‘Nemesis’, ‘Nibiru’ or ‘Planet X’, could be passing near the Oort cloud and sending comets flying into the inner Solar System every 26 million years, thus explaining the timing of Earth’s extinction cycles. However, Muller’s theory began to lose its charm after scientists and astronomers failed to discover any conclusive evidence of such a comet-displacing body.
But in 1983, a joint project between NASA, the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes and the UK Science and Engineering Research Council known as the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, or IRAS, began to reveal some rather significant anomalies – and the first “real” evidence of a Planet X-type body on the far reaches of the Solar System. On 31 December 1983, the Washington Post reported the following: “A heavenly body possibly as large as the giant planet Jupiter and possibly so close to Earth that it would be part of this solar system has been found in the direction of the constellation Orion by an orbiting telescope aboard the US Infrared Astronomical Satellite.”
Unfortunately, the IRAS project was wound up after only 10 months due to technical problems with the satellite; and while it did reveal numerous anomalies, the most significant of them, including the fabled Jupiter-sized object, were explained away by the mainstream science community as distant galaxies. Since then, Planet X has been relegated to the confines of conspiracy forums and far-fetched assertions by researchers intent on proving that Earth will be destroyed by Nibiru in the year 2012.
But the IRAS project left some 350,000 anomalies unexplained at its conclusion, which means investigations into the potential existence of Planet X are far from over – especially if Andy Lloyd, a UK-based writer, researcher and author, has anything to do with it.
The subject of Planet X divides opinion. On one side are scientists attempting to find an additional extra-planetary body within our Solar System; on the other, you have conspiracy theorists rolling out their various end-of-days scenarios for 2012. Somewhere in the middle of this epistemological divide is Andy Lloyd, who presents a hypothesis which could potentially bridge the gap between science and myth once and for all.
Lloyd tells me he first became interested in Planet X after reading Zecharia Sitchin’s books, which claim that early Sumerian civilisation was created by an alien race called the Anunnaki who came to Earth from the planet Nibiru – or Planet X. According to Sitchin, the Anunnaki (identical with the Biblical Nephilim), genetically manipulated Homo sapiens DNA with their own to create mankind, who they soon put to work mining precious minerals and gold before the humans revolted and the Anunnaki left.
Sitchin’s theories are based on his interpretations of ancient texts, such as the Babylonian creation myth of the Enûma Elish, which, he says, not only describe the creation of our Solar System but also how Nibiru interacts with it every 3,600 years. Needless to say, his claims have been panned by scientists and Sumerian scholars alike.
Andy Lloyd says that while Sitchin’s theories make interesting reading, they “couldn’t possibly work on a physical and scientific level”. For starters, a planet like Nibiru would freeze over on such a large orbit around our Sun – rather detrimental to any life forms inhabiting it. However, Lloyd’s hypothesis avoids this problem by suggesting that Planet X isn’t actually a planet after all. Instead, Lloyd proposes that it’s a sub-brown dwarf.
Scientists are still rather vague on an actual definition of a sub-brown dwarf. Although it’s now generally accepted that they form from gas clouds, in a similar manner to stars, the distinction between a sub-brown dwarf and a planet is unclear, with astronomers divided into two camps.
With this in mind, Lloyd gives me a definition of a sub-brown dwarf in layman’s terms: “If you take Jupiter and dump more and more matter into it, it’ll start to condense, which means it gets smaller and heavier. And once you’re at five or six times the mass of Jupiter, you’re in sub-brown dwarf territory – they’re sort of proto-stars.”
Scientists have yet to come up with any conclusive evidence of these sub-brown dwarfs; they’re very hard to spot as they don’t emit much light and are practically invisible in the blackness of space. Nevertheless, there are a few “suspected” sub-brown dwarfs, such as 2M1207b, SCR 1845-6357, Cha 110913-773444, and OTS 44, which are currently under scrutiny.
However, more startling evidence regarding Planet X surfaced at the beginning of March this year when scientists suggested – again – that a brown dwarf-type object could very well be orbiting our Sun and throwing comets into the inner Solar System, causing catastrophic extinctions on Earth every 26 million years. 
Lloyd assures me that his Dark Star theory is a “nuts-and-bolts hypothesis” that’ll either be proved right or wrong – and probably within the next few years. Among other things, it opens up the potential for life to exist on the doorstep of our Solar System.
When stars are born, Lloyd explains, it usually happens within stellar nurseries, and for this reason stars tend to form in clusters – which is why the majority of observed star systems are binary in nature. Hardly a revelation, but when you consider that finding single star systems, such as ours, is very rare, it starts to sound more and more probable that something like the Dark Star – or a companion star to our Sun – could be a real possibility.
Brown dwarfs, he continues, form with their own planetary discs, like our Sun; and, again like our Sun, they can form their own planets. In this sense, Lloyd’s proposed Dark Star could be described as a miniature solar system within our Solar System.
In a purely hypothetical sense, Lloyd goes on to suggest that not only is life a possibility on the planets orbiting the Dark Star but that conditions would be more favourable to life than those we regularly endure here on Earth: “Earth, as a planet, is considered the jewel of the universe, because it has life. However, it’s bombarded with all kinds of harmful radiation, such as UV rays, Gamma rays and cosmic rays. In a sub-brown dwarf system, because it doesn’t burn with the intensity of the Sun, this isn’t the case. Also, in terms of location, the Dark Star is in a relatively quiet part of space, which means there’s less chance of it being affected by comets and dangerous hazards that have caused mass extinctions on Earth before. In this context, life could have evolved over a longer, and uninterrupted, time period on a planet orbiting the Dark Star.”
Lloyd’s theory also explains several anomalies which scientists have observed on the outskirts of our Solar System. One of which is the Kuiper cliff, an anomaly or disruption within the Kuiper belt. The Kuiper belt, which is like a second asteroid belt beyond Neptune, is thought to have been created from fragments of the original proto-planetary disc around the Sun that failed to fully coalesce into planets and instead formed into smaller bodies, which now orbit the Sun. Lloyd proposes that the Kuiper cliff, which is essentially where the belt stops dead, could be caused by the Dark Star, as it would take something extremely massive to create such an aberration within a system that should – in all probability – be uniform in its composition. “Something massive, like the Dark Star, could have come and, because of its gravitational power, torn a hole in the Kuiper belt similar to how Saturn’s moons have made holes in its ring,” suggests Lloyd.
Another interesting anomaly can be found in the Heliopause, farther out than the Kuiper belt and generally defined as the area where the outgoing solar wind and the incoming plasma from interstellar space meet. The Heliopause surrounds the Solar System and has long been thought to be uniform in shape. However, deep space probes have now revealed that it isn’t as uniform as the scientists had believed.
“The two probes, which passed through the Heliopause, did so at different points, which means that the heliopause is dented, or that it’s not uniform in shape; and this wasn’t expected,” says Lloyd.
NASA claims that the anomaly could be caused by a molecular cloud, but Loyd doesn’t buy this: “If you look at the Heliopause, a secondary object, such as the Dark Star, which has its own sufficient gravitational energy could cause these anomalies in the Heliopause’s shape. In addition to this, a Dark Star would also throw out lots of particles and have its own electromagnetic field, which, again, could affect the shape of the Heliopause in this way too.”
I ask Lloyd if he might hazard a guess as to the Dark Star’s current location, but he claims it would be impossible to do so, as we haven’t even detected it yet. However, he does suspect that its orbit is more likely to be in the tens of thousands of years rather than Sitchin’s 3,600-year cycle. Perhaps, he says, it exists in the void between the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud; its being there might explain why nothing else is.
Will Planet X cause the end of the world in 2012? Lloyd isn’t a believer, though he admits that something like the Dark Star would have a huge effect on Earth if it passed nearby; and he’s interested in the Mayan calendar, central to so many 2012 doomsday theories.
Lloyd believes that the Mayan calendar, like Sitchin’s interpretation of Sumerian texts, is undoubtedly based on astrology and the movements of the stars; it could be a system for recording some kind of anomaly, such as the Dark Star passing through the Solar System.
“Why would a culture, like the Mayans, design a calendar that starts thousands of years before they existed and end it thousands of years after their demise – could they have known something we don’t?” he wonders.
As Lloyd says, his theory is a nuts-and-bolts one that’ll either be proved correct or false. While he’s confident that the Dark Star will be discovered, he’s also prepared for the chance that it won’t be – it’s this agnostic approach that makes Andy Lloyd an example to forteans.
Could he be the man to create a bridge between science and myth, or will his fabled Dark Star remain an elusive object that forever evades our telescopes in the blackness of space?
Watch this space.
1 The Sun reported on 12 March 2010: “An invisible star may be circling the Sun [the heavenly body rather than the newspaper!] and causing deadly comets to bombard the Earth, scientists said yesterday.”