What Is Nibiru?
By Harman Smith and Laura Generosa (nee Berwin), graphic artists and contractors to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, via Wikimedia Commons

What Is Nibiru?

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In an earlier article, I discussed the history of Nibiru, a supposed rogue planet. There I traced the origin of this idea to a series of books by Zecharia Sitchin beginning in 1976. His thesis was that this planet was on a 3,600-year orbit around the sun, and previous passages of Nibiru through the inner solar system and the catastrophes it induced were recorded in the ancient Near East.

In 1995, Nancy Leider claimed extraterrestrials she called Zetas had sent her messages that a planet would pass very close to the earth in 2003, with civilization-ending consequences. Shortly thereafter, she implied that this Planet X, as she called it, and Nibiru were the same object. Of course, 2003 came and went without incident. This failure of her prediction should have ended any more discussion of this subject, and for a while, it faded. Unfortunately, the excitement about the end of the world (or the end of the age, as far too many Christians saw it) on December 21, 2012, revived interest in Nibiru again. The confluence of the supposed end of the world (or age) indicated by the Mayan calendar and the alignment of the winter solstice with the galactic center on that date revived the claim of Nibiru’s return to somehow wreak havoc on the earth. With the failure of another prediction, surely, we would not hear about Nibiru anymore.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. Soon, claims that an alignment of the sun, moon, and four planets in the constellations Virgo and Leo on September 23, 2017, reignited interest in Nibiru, with various sources claiming Nibiru’s involvement once again. For instance, some people claimed that the three hours of darkness at the time of the Crucifixion was caused by Nibiru eclipsing the sun and that in a repeat performance Nibiru would eclipse the sun for three hours again on September 23, 2017. It’s not clear where people got this notion—it certainly didn’t come from Scripture. Perhaps people dreamed this up to overcome the objection that no one would see the supposed September 23, 2017, sign, because the sun would be in the sky, obscuring most of it. People reasoned that a total solar eclipse possibly would allow those in the path of totality to see this sign. Other people issued nebulous predictions of Nibiru showing up September 23, 2017, and bringing about some catastrophe on earth. Obviously, none of this came to pass either.

With yet another set of failed predictions, shouldn’t all this nonsense about Nibiru finally go away?

With yet another set of failed predictions, shouldn’t all this nonsense about Nibiru finally go away? It should, but it probably won’t, because enthusiasts of the next new thing in eschatology likely will resurrect Nibiru to suit their needs. Furthermore, the claims about Nibiru continue morphing and going in all sorts of directions. That last statement is somewhat literal. Originally, Nibiru was a hypothetical object that followed an orbit around the sun under the sun’s gravity. Once each orbit, Nibiru passed close to the sun before receding to a great distance from the sun once again. As it did this, it took a few months to pass through the inner solar system where the earth is. In recent years, there have been many supposed sightings of Nibiru. Anymore, many people automatically assume any unidentified object in the sky must be Nibiru. Lens flares or other defects on photographs must be Nibiru. Many people report seeing Nibiru as a bright object in the sky for mere minutes before it moves on or disappears. An object truly orbiting the sun would not appear and disappear so rapidly. Furthermore, if it were orbiting the sun, it would have moved out of the inner solar system within months, yet these sightings have been going on for years. Apparently, many believers in Nibiru have abandoned the thought that it is a rogue planet orbiting the sun. Instead, they must think Nibiru is an object free from the constraints of physics to move about as it pleases.

Have NASA and Astronomers Seen Niburu?

In the previous article about Nibiru, I briefly discussed a common claim that astronomers have photographed it with the Hubble Space Telescope. These photographs are of V828 Monocerotis, a star that erupted in 2002, sparking the interest of astronomers. This object has been known for a long time. Furthermore, it is stationary in the sky, showing no motion. All claims about Nibiru have it moving, so this doesn’t fit at all.

Some supporters of Nibiru believe astronomers have seen it by confusing Nibiru with a study from early 2016 suggesting that there is another distant planet orbiting the sun. This conclusion was based upon the clustering in the orientations of the orbits of several TNOs (Trans-Neptunian Objects), large asteroids beyond the orbit of Neptune. This odd situation could be explained by the gravitational attraction of a large, more distant object. That is, the possible existence of this planet is inferred from its gravity. Astronomers have attempted to look for this hypothetical planet, though no one has detected it yet. Even if it exists, this planet could not be Nibiru, because its closest approach to the sun would be far away, beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Others have claimed that NASA and many astronomers have seen Nibiru, but that these sightings have been covered up. The most famous example of this is found in Google Sky. If you click on the infrared view on this site and navigate to the position 13 hours, 50 minutes right ascension, -9 degrees declination, there is a dark rectangular patch with an odd red and green object peeking out from the right side of the patch. Views at other wavelengths reveal nothing in this location. Many people claim that this strange object partially seen here is Nibiru, and the dark patch is an attempt to hide this discovery. This claim was folded into the supposed fulfillment of the Revelation 12:1–2 sign on September 23, 2017. The location of this strange object is below the womb of Virgo, so this was interpreted as the sign of Revelation 12:3–4, a great red dragon waiting to devour the child birthed by the woman in the sign of Revelation 12:1–2.

The claim that this mystery object is Nibiru has been debunked effectively at this website. I will repeat the salient points of the refutation. First, if NASA wished to obscure this object, why do it in such a poor fashion, with a dark rectangular patch that virtually begs for scrutiny? It would be relatively easy to smooth over this spot with color and shading of surrounding regions rather than leaving a black rectangle. Even worse, the patch doesn’t do a very good job of hiding the object, because so much of it is visible. That is, NASA scientists allegedly were competent enough to realize they needed to hide this object, but simultaneously were too incompetent to do that task very well. That doesn’t make sense.

There is a far less nefarious explanation. The infrared view of Google Sky is based upon IRAS (InfraRed Astronomical Satellite) results. IRAS was the first satellite to map most of the sky in the infrared during its 10-month mission in 1983 (the coolant required to make the camera work properly lasted only 10 months). There are two large elongated crescent-shaped dark patches where IRAS was not able to obtain data. The location of the mystery object is identical to the position of Saturn during the IRAS mission. Saturn and the other Jovian planets are very bright in the infrared. The blackness probably resulted from lost data because of gross overexposure there.

What is seen on the image was data that wasn’t overexposed and hence was maintained. Saturn’s position changed during the 10 months of data collection, which is why there are several images close together. This is a false-color image, so the object is not red and green. False-color images are standard in depicting images obtained by cameras sensitive to parts of the spectrum that our eyes cannot see, such as infrared in this case. Most people who believe that this is a genuine image of Nibiru think this image was taken recently. They have no idea it was taken nearly 35 years ago. This cannot be Nibiru. Rather, it clearly is Saturn.

Before moving on to another commonly claimed identification of Nibiru, someone recently asked me about another object in Google Sky at 5 hours, 35 minutes right ascension, -5.5 degrees declination. In both the visual and infrared view, there is an overexposed object with a black patch centered on it, with a visual image superimposed. The Orion Nebula is located at the coordinates above, and the image superimposed is a visible-light photograph of the Orion Nebula. My guess is that, at least on the infrared image, the Orion Nebula is grossly overexposed from bright emission of dust, rendering no data there. I suppose the Orion Nebula image was placed there to identify what is in that position.

Other people claim still another NASA image of Nibiru, identifying it IC 5385. I recognize the nomenclature here—IC stands for the Index Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, published by John Dreyer in two installments in 1895 and 1908. The IC was an extension of Dreyer’s 1888 New Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (NGC), which in turn was a revision of John Herschel’s General Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars published a few decades earlier. IC 5385 is one of the last entries in the IC. As I often do when I encounter an astronomical object I’m not familiar with, I search for it in SIMBAD (Set of Identifications, Measurements, and Bibliography for Astronomical Data). However, SIMBAD returned the message, “Identifier not found in the database.” Apparently, IC 5385 does not exist. Both the NGC and IC contain some errors, such as duplicates, objects with incorrectly reported positions, and a few nonexistent objects. The entry for IC 5385 has the description “eF (not verified).” The “eF” means the object was extremely faint, while “not verified” means that this object was observed only once. What is/was IC 5385, if it does not exist? No one knows. It probably was a defect on a photographic plate, making a faint star appear as a nebula.

How did this object come to be identified with Nibiru? Websites such as this one found a bright object just below the vernal equinox that didn’t seem to show up on other views of this part of the sky. This led people erroneously to conclude that the object was new and, hence, likely was Nibiru. The position of the mystery object is close to where IC 5385 was supposed to be, so apparently in searching for possible objects at this location, someone stumbled upon IC 5385 and thought this must be the object they were seeing. The fact that IC 5385 was “discovered” more than a century earlier likely didn’t matter. The mystery object was found on the all-sky plot of WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer). WISE is an infrared satellite that was launched into orbit early in 2010. Like IRAS nearly three decades earlier, WISE surveyed most of the sky in the infrared, but much better because of improvements in technology. The WISE survey was conducted over the first 10 months of 2010, until its coolant was depleted.

So if this mystery object isn’t Nibiru and it isn’t IC 5385, what is it?

So if this mystery object isn’t Nibiru and it isn’t IC 5385, what is it? Since Jovian planets are so bright in the infrared and since Saturn had so easily explained the other supposed Nibiru sighting in the infrared, I guessed that this object was a Jovian planet as well. To test this, I decided to look up the positions of the four Jovian planets in 2010, starting with Uranus. However, I didn’t need to look up the other planets, because I found Uranus’ position in 2010 was a perfect match for this mystery object. Hence, this object is another Jovian planet, not Nibiru.


People increasingly are claiming sightings of Nibiru, if not from fuzzy photographs they took, from NASA images. The talk of “Hey, look – it’s Nibiru!” and, “No, it’s over here!” and, “No, it’s over there!” is reminiscent of the warning of Jesus that people will claim to see the Christ in many different places (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:21; Luke 17:23). All these conflicting claims of Nibiru cannot be true. I’m confident that none are true. Interest in Nibiru is almost exclusively linked to expectation that apocalyptic events are about to unfold as people believe they are witnessing fulfillment of biblical prophecy before their eyes. Many Christians are convinced that in the past three years Joel 2:31 and Revelation 6:12 were fulfilled with eclipses and Revelation 12:1–2 was fulfilled by alignment of the sun, moon, stars, and four planets. Of course, most of those Christians were expecting the Lord’s return when those events transpired, but, now that He didn’t return, they merely have reinterpreted these fulfillments as part of a larger mosaic that one day will lead to the Lord’s return. These people mean well, but they fail to realize that the repeated cycle of building expectation of the Lord’s return on a certain day, only to be disappointed, followed by reinterpretation brings disrepute on the Lord’s cause.

Far too many Christians are consumed with figuring out all the details of end times prophecies. There are many schools of thought concerning Bible prophecy and eschatology. They all can’t be right; they all could be wrong. From Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks (Daniel 9:24–27), many people anticipated the approximate time of the First Advent. However, no one at that time understood how the First Advent would play out. Not one. Are we so arrogant to think that we in the 21st century have figured out the details of the Second Advent?

People who get so excited about Bible prophecy appear to lose sight of the most important question. That question is, are you ready (Matthew 24:44)? One does not need to be hyped up with anticipation of some predicted coming event (such as an eclipse) to be ready. Rather, it is the assurance of being right with God, and patiently awaiting his return while living our lives worthy of his calling. So, I’ll ask again, are you ready?


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