What is the planet Nibiru

Nibiru - 2012 - The object of a science fiction novel

K.S. de Boer, Argelander Institute for Astronomy, University of Bonn

Again and again questions about the meaning of the reports are sent by e-mail Nibiru or Planet X one that was supposed to collide with Earth in 2012. These stories are pure fantasy. Nibiru is a purely fictional object.

What is a planet

Planets are large objects that circle the sun independently in orbits. The last to be discovered was Pluto, the ninth, in 1930. Planet X as a term stands for another planet in our solar system that could perhaps exist in an orbit beyond Pluto. It would then be the 10th planet, hence the Roman letter X, which is also an allusion to the great unknown.

In recent years several objects have been found that remain on orbits beyond planet Uranium. A small essay is about the new planets.

Since these newly discovered objects show a certain similarity to Pluto and the term "planet" was never properly defined, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) saw itself compelled to rectify this in 2006. According to a well-considered definition, Pluto no longer belongs to the planet category. The solar system contains only 8 planets, but several planet-like objects (dwarf planets). See the IAU and the definition of "planet".

Discovery and naming of new objects

Newly discovered objects in the solar system are included in the IAU list in the "IAU Minor Planet Center" (IAU-MPC) after they have been recognized. Information about the activities of the MPC (archiving of data, new discoveries of objects in the solar system, etc.) can be found on IAU-MPC. The discoverer of a new object may suggest a name, which is usually adopted by the IAU (see e.g. Tschira). The IAU does not have an object named "Nibiru" on the list of recognized objects discovered.

If an object were so massive and got close that it would influence the action of the planetary system (the Roman object Nibiru would do this), it would also be so bright now (reflected sunlight) that it had long been discovered and in the IAU List would have been included.

Near Earth Objects and Collisions

It has long been known that there are objects in the planetary system that come close to the earth. They are small and do not mess up the planetary system. However, such objects can collide with planets. Well-known impact points on earth are the Yucatan peninsula (the impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs) and the Nördlinger Ries. And in 1994 a comet struck Jupiter (Comet Shoemaker-Levy). More about impacts in Collisions in the planetary system.

Furthermore, one should know that the appearance of "falling stars" goes back to objects that burn up in the earth's atmosphere. More on that at shooting stars.

How did the novel object Nibiru come about?

In Wikipedia you can read how the story about Nibiru came about. It is already based on general astronomy, but then names from the Mesopotamian culture and a lot of imagination were added (Wikipedia and Nibiru). Events should lead to the end of mankind in 2003. Since nothing happened at that time, 2010 was first mentioned, then 2012 (maybe then, since then the end of the Mayan calendar will be). See also Wikipedia at ZetaTalk and the website with many facts against such a (once again) predicted end of the world (debunking Nibiru and Planet X).

Conspiracy theories

Nothing is kept secret from science. The search for "Near Earth Objects" (see NEO's) is regularly reported. Some journalists and others with too little astronomical knowledge like to turn factual results into sensations and like to hatch conspiracy theories ...


Posted April 18, 2009. Adjusted May 14, 2009 and May 2, 2010