The return of Planet X

Io. One of Jupiter's moons

Here is one of those topics that can’t be proven or disproven, yet the natural laws that mankind has discovered about the universe can help provide order to the chaos that everyone writing about this subject seems to focus on.

So, have you heard about Planet X? A Google search will bring up a number of sites with all kinds of doom and gloom information.  There are video’s and graphic pictures that people have created that show you Planet X, yet, the pictures are artists renditions of what people think the planet looks like – no one has actually seen it.

The internet is really good at providing information as truth; yet, a casual observation can settle the mind back in the reality of logic. If someone has witnessed Planet X, natural laws suggest that we ALL would also witness the event in short order. So let’s investigate the issue a little.

A year or so ago I spent some time watching the latest videos and reading the most visited sites to learn more about Planet X. What drove me to investigate were claims that people were making in random internet conversations and emails that I received. People were stating things like, “Can you see Planet X in this photo that I took? It’s right next to the sun” Or things like “An Australian astronomer has spotted the planet, which you can only see from the southern hemisphere. He was using a small telescope.” Or, one of my favorites, “Planet X can only be seen from the south pole.” My first thoughts were a mixture of excitement and sadness, then, after a little research, they mellowed knowing that people are gullible and the Planet X can’t be disproven.

I have to admit that it’s been a while since I read through those top rated sites, but here are some and some quotes that I’ve found.

The Planet X Video site is the top Google hit. The first thing that I notice when I load that page is the advertisement for 2012 Planet X. Looks like they have a store in which they’re selling a bunch of stuff. Getting past that, they do have a bunch of little videos that can be viewed in which they have a number of different people talk about Earth’s past, trying to link it to the super long planetary orbit that they state Planet X has. They also bring in a lot of religious history, which helps bring the story ‘home’ for people. Yet, the graphic at the bottom of their introduction page hints at their real understanding. In that graphic they state:

    • What happens as Planet X completes its 3600 year orbit?
    • What caused the great flood, ice ages, and Atlantis to sink?
    • What are the indicators that Planet X is inbound at this time?
    • Will Planet X arrive in our lifetime? Why are some preparing?

Which are all really good questions that I’m sure everyone would like a reasonable answer too.

Another site, xfacts, seems to focus more on the alien side of things, but they do have a little info about Planet X. On the xfacts planet X page, they state:

In the early 1990’s, calculations by the United States Naval Observatory have confirmed the orbital perturbation exhibited by Uranus and Neptune, which Dr. Thomas C Van Flandern, an astronomer at the observatory, says could be explained by “a single undiscovered planet”. He and a colleague, Dr. Robert Harrington, calculate that the 10th planet should be two to five times more massive than Earth and have a highly elliptical orbit that takes it some 5 billion miles beyond that of Pluto.

Take note that this discovery took place back in the 1990’s. At this point, that could have been twenty years ago. A little further down on the same page.

Why has Planet X not been seen in recent times? Views from modern and ancient astronomy, which both suggest a highly elliptical, comet-like orbit, takes Planet X into the depths of space, well beyond the orbit of Pluto.

They even have a great diagram (at the bottom of the page) showing the elliptical orbit of Planet X. Yet, if the planet is incoming it should be nearly 20 years closer.

Moving on to the third top found site by Google, we find a site with the graphic reading “Uh-oh… Planet-X Is At It Again!” This site is a little more critical of the Planet X theory’s, yet I haven’t looked it over much. I just might have too, but for now, I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

The next entry that Google provides is from the Wikipedia. Looks like there is a bit of history with the label “X”. It also states that:

Today, the astronomical community widely agrees that Planet X, as originally envisioned, does not exist. However, the concept of Planet X has been revived by a number of astronomers to explain other anomalies observed in the outer Solar System. In popular culture, and even among some astronomers,[5] Planet X has become a stand-in term for any undiscovered planet in the outer Solar System, regardless of its relationship to Lowell’s hypothesis. Other trans-Neptunian planets have also been suggested, based on different evidence.

But, that is not enough to persuade anyone that something doesn’t exist. Just because we don’t have evidence today, doesn’t mean that we might come up with evidence tomorrow that the Planet X really does exist.

So that brings us around to a little science or, simply, logical thinking to help shed some light on the subject.

If we think about planetary motion, it would make sense to bring up Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. The Wikipedia is a great source for information on these key laws. In a nutshell, the laws can be stated as:

  1. The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at a focus.
  2. A line joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.[1]
  3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

Logically, one would have to believe that if Planet X actually had an orbit around the sun; it would follow the basic behavior that all the other objects that circle the sun follow. So, we’d have to say that Planet X is an elliptical orbit (which fits what the other Planet X supporting websites say).

Diagram A

The second law brings in one of the fundamental concepts of calculus. BasicallThe second law brings in one of the fundamental concepts of calculus. Basically, if you can carve an area into enough little countable rectangular pieces, you can determine what the area is. Then, when you consider Kepler’s second law, the area swept out by the planet moving is always equal relative in time.

Looking closer at that concept, and looking closer at the diagram that Wikipedia provides (Diagram A).

Examining A1 and A2 in the diagram should give you the idea that when the planet is at the furthest points away from the sun the distance traveled in a short period of time will be very small. Whereas, if the planet were really close to the sun it would have to travel a large distance in order to sweep out an equivalent area. This next diagram (Diagram B) illustrates the concept nicely.

Now let’s consider an orbit of a planet we already know a lot about. Take Jupiter for instance. It has an orbit of just about 12 years. It’s also fairly circular. Then, looking at Saturn, which also has a relatively circular orbit; it takes about 29 years to circle the sun.

Diagram B

The key note here is that if a planet has an orbit of 3600 years, if it has a circular orbit, it would be sitting way out in space. The result is that it would have nothing to do with earth. It would not pass by the earth and it would have no gravitational effect on the earth.

But the claims are that it ‘passes by’ the earth during its orbit. Thus, the logical conclusion is that the orbit must be elliptical – which is what the supporters claim. Which implies, based on Kepler’s second law that the speed of the planet will behave like a comet, let’s look at Halley’s Comet. It has an orbital that is about 75 years, yet the period of time that it spends close to the sun is brief. Last time that comet came around, we got a few days to witness its presence.

Also, as we all know, the further you get away from an object (planet sun) the smaller the pull of gravity. Take for instance, the moon and mars. The moon is relatively small, but it’s very close to the earth, thus the gravitational pull has enough of a pull to draw the oceans toward it – thus causing the tides we witness on the beach. Yet, Mars is much greater in size and it has relatively no measurable effect on earth (ok, it’s slight and can be expressed in mathematical formulas, but it doesn’t warp our planet).

It holds the same for the other planets that circle our sun. The gravitational forces are relatively negligible. In order for Jupiter to really have an effect, it would have to be much closer than is sits today.

So, the most important tidbit of information to take out of all of this is that if the planet were to act like a comet and comets follow Kepler’s second law (areas swept out are equal for equal periods of time), it would mean that the period of time that the planet spent near the sun would be very small and it would be moving extremely fast. Just like many comets that only show themselves for a few days as they burn their way around the sun, a comet like planet would most likely do the same thing. It would be traveling so fast that it would circle the sun in days and travel through our solar system in weeks. It would also have to fall close enough to the sun that the gravitational forces would fully act upon the Planet.

With this in mind, it would seem logical that the planet would have to pass close enough to the sun for the sun’s influence to fully act upon the object to keep it in a captured state. And, if so, even if the mass of the planet is fairly large, it would most likely have a very small pull on the earth (if any) as it passes by. Just like Mars of Venus as they pass by the earth.

So, now we revisit the original triggers that got me thinking about this project. Would people’s claims that they have seen Planet X hold up under Kepler’s scrutiny? Probably not. For by the time that the planet is seen it will be traveling so fast that it will streak around the sun and in a few days be gone. So, if someone were to really see Planet X, it would not take much time for EVERYONE to see Planet X.

Also, will Planet X tear apart the earth when it passes? Well, that is also highly unlikely, for the gravitational pull of the sun on the Planet would force it in so close that it would most likely affect the earth in the same way that Mars or Venus does. So far, we haven’t detected any earthquake relationship between those planets and earth.

Now, what if Planet X has moons and one of those moons were to collide with the earth? What I’d think would be a higher probability is that the moon would hit the sun. As the planet sweeps around the sun, the probability that a moon could get captured by the sun seems high. And, if Planet X has been circling the sun for … ever, then the probably would be high that the sun would have already consumed the moons thus leaving the planet moonless.

What about Planet X dragging in other space junk that might collide with the earth? Well, if Planet X’s gravitational plug were strong enough to capture some space junk, that space junk would do the same thing that space junk around the earth does. It falls towards the earth.  If it doesn’t fall towards the planet, then it’s a moon, which, well, is kind of covered on the previous paragraph.

So I’m not saying that Planet X doesn’t exist, I’m just saying that if it does and it follows the natural laws that we know about, it will most likely pass very close to the sun and have next to no gravitational pull on the earth. Also, the time that it spends in our inner solar system where we could view it would be extremely short due to Kepler’s second law.

Also, the idea that it’s behind the sun, or that it’s just beyond Saturn also doesn’t fit the calculations of how comets (or planets) work. If it’s behind the sun and traveling like a comet, it would simply take a few days before the planet were visible. If it has a mirrored orbit with earth, like a sister planet (twin), then its orbit around the sun is 1 year, not 3600. If someone has discovered it in the outer reaches of the solar system, say, just beyond Saturn, then again, because it’s acting like a comet, it will only take a few days, weeks to travel around the sun.

Now, if Planet X is NOT captured by the sun then we have a completely different story to talk about. But that would change some of the ideas that are well established in the Planet X community. It would be like claiming the world is round when everyone else knows that the world is flat.

In any case, the information that I’ve reviewed over the years regarding Planet X is more imaginative than factual.

I’ll keep an open mind with the hope that my life will be filled with beautiful celestial events, while building upon natural laws that are commonly observable and believable.

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