Planet Nibiru Explained: What Is It, and Will It Destroy the Earth?

~6 min

Let’s review everything we know about Nibiru, the mysterious planet that can't be found in any astronomy app (yes, even in Sky Tonight). Why is it associated with the world's end, and does it even exist?


What is Nibiru?

Nibiru is a nonexistent planet that some people believe will soon come close to or hit the Earth, causing catastrophic events. This name is often mentioned in doomsday prophecies. It is also said to be home to a powerful extraterrestrial race called the Annunaki.

Planet to destroy the Earth

The idea of a planet heading toward the Earth came from Nancy Lieder, a self-declared contactee receiving messages from extraterrestrials called Zetans. In 1995, she warned of a massive planetary object approaching the Earth that would cause a halt in the Earth's rotation or even an impact event. Lieder initially forecasted doomsday for May 2003, but when her prediction failed to come true, she claimed she lied on purpose and that she would not reveal the actual date to prevent governments from implementing martial law and endangering people’s lives by trapping them in cities during the impending disaster. Many prophecies from other people followed, “scheduling” the apocalypse for December 2012, and then for October and November 2017.

Lieder referred to the object as Planet X. Later, it became associated with Nibiru, a planet mentioned in the writings of Zecharia Sitchin, author of “The End of Days” and “The 12th Planet” books.

The 12th planet

Originally, Nibiru was a term used in Babylonian cosmology. The word's meaning is unclear, but it has been interpreted to mean “crossing” or “point of transition”. Based on his personal interpretation of the Sumerian cuneiform script, Sitchin claimed that Nibiru is a planet with an elliptical orbit that came close to the Earth once every 3,600 years, causing cataclysms. He also called it the 12th planet, as he believed Sumerian conception of the Solar System counted all eight planets, plus Pluto, the Sun, and the Moon (official science has established that the Sumerians only knew five planets, but who cares? Definitely not Sitchin).

Sitchin proclaimed that the last time Nibiru passed the Earth was in 556 BC, so it will return sometime around 2900 AD. However, the Anunnaki living on Nibiru may arrive by spaceship even earlier, sometime between 2090 and 2370.

Anunnaki planet

Sitchin was a huge fan of a pseudoscientific theory about ancient astronauts, implying that extraterrestrial beings visited the Earth and interacted with humans long ago. Therefore, when he encountered mentions of the Anunnaki (a group of deities worshiped by Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians) in Sumerian texts, he concluded that this was an advanced humanoid extraterrestrial species that first came to the Earth 450,000 years ago looking for gold and other minerals. Later, they created Homo Sapiens by crossing their genes with those of Homo Erectus and set up the Sumerian civilization. According to Sitchin, Nibiru is their home planet.

Planet that inspires moviemakers

Nibiru and the doomsday prophecies surrounding it sometimes inspire screenwriters.

  • A volcanic jungle planet called Nibiru is featured in “Star Trek Into Darkness”. At the beginning of the film, the main characters try to save its inhabitants from a volcanic eruption.

  • In the film “Melancholia”, the drama between the characters unfolds as a rogue planet is coming to destroy the Earth.

  • To promote the film “2012”, Sony Pictures created a viral marketing website where they posted info about the apocalypse coming in December 2012. The arrival of a so-called Planet X was mentioned as one of the possible apocalypse scenarios.

Filmmakers often use space as a source of inspiration. But sometimes, the real lives of astronauts offer twists and turns more mind-blowing than those in any sci-fi movie. Could you tell which situations happened in real life and which ones were made up by the screenwriters? Pass this quiz and see!

Space Movie or True Story?
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Is Nibiru Planet X or Planet Nine?

Nibiru is often called Planet X or Planet Nine. To see if this is correct, let's explore the meanings of these terms.

Planet X was a term for a planet that was supposed to exist beyond Neptune’s orbit. This concept was proposed in 1894 to explain the discrepancies in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. It was later discovered that these discrepancies were due to Neptune's miscalculated mass. Once the calculations were corrected, the extra planet was no longer needed, so astronomers accepted that Planet X (as originally defined) did not exist.

Planet Nine is a term for a ninth Solar System planet that was first hypothesized to exist in 2014 (sometimes it's also called Planet X, for old times' sake). It is believed to be located beyond Neptune's orbit and is proposed to explain the unusual orbits of some distant trans-Neptunian objects. While there is evidence to suggest the existence of Planet Nine, it has not yet been directly observed. Astronomers keep on searching for the predicted planet.

Upon learning that scientists were actively seeking Planet Nine, Nibiru believers interpreted this as a sign of validation for their belief in a killer planet. However, astronomers pointed out that Planet Nine, if it exists, could only approach the Sun not closer than roughly 200 AU and, therefore, would have no way of passing anywhere near the Earth. So, calling Nibiru Planet Nine or Planet X is a bit of a misnomer. It’s better not to mix up actual scientific concepts with conspiracy theorists’ speculations.

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Why do scientists think Nibiru is fake?

As you can see, astronomers are skeptical about the idea of a planet approaching the Earth. Their skepticism stems from the fact that if a planet like Nibiru did exist, it would have significant effects on the orbits of other planets and would be observable.

Nibiru’s orbit is inconsistent with celestial mechanics

The proposed orbit of Nibiru is often described as highly eccentric and inclined, which would make it very difficult for such a planet to remain stable within the Solar System over long periods of time. Despite this, believers claim it repeatedly approaches the Earth. However, NASA space scientist David Morrison argues that just one previous flyby of Nibiru would alter the Earth's orbit, potentially causing our planet to lose its Moon. Gravitational interactions with other planets could disrupt Nibiru’s orbit or even eject it from the Solar System forever.

If Nibiru existed, we would have seen it

Given that Pluto is now regularly observed through backyard telescopes, any massive planet located beyond Pluto would also be easily spotted by amateur stargazers, let alone professional astronomers. A number of projects are working on detecting objects that pass close to the Earth, such as asteroids and comets. A planet-sized object like Nibiru would definitely not go unnoticed.

Space objects mistaken for Nibiru

With a perseverance that could be put to better use, Nibiru believers are searching for a planet coming toward the Earth. Sometimes they mistake real space objects for Nibiru.

Comet Elenin

On October 16, 2011, comet Elenin came closest to the Earth. At that moment, it was slightly closer to our planet than Venus. However, conspiracy theorists associated it with Nibiru and claimed that the object was on a collision course. There were also theories that the name Elenin was an encrypted message: “Ele” was code for an “Extinction Level Event”, and “nin” supposedly meant “Nibiru in November” (in fact, it was just the last name of the astronomer Leonid Elenin, who discovered the comet).

Comet ISON

Discovered on September 21, 2012, comet C/2012 S1, also known as comet ISON, was expected to pass within 0.429 AU of the Earth on December 26, 2013. Despite scientific predictions, some believers associated it with the Nibiru cataclysm, suggesting the comet or its fragments would collide with the Earth. However, after passing the perihelion, the comet began to fade and was declared to be fully disintegrated on December 2, 2013.

Eris and Sedna

Some people mistakenly confuse Nibiru with Eris (136199 Eris) or Sedna (90377 Sedna), which are trans-Neptunian objects discovered in 2003 and 2005, respectively. Back then, Pluto was still considered a planet, and Eris used to be described as the “tenth planet” (now, it is classified as a dwarf planet). Sedna has a highly elliptical orbit, similar to the imaginary orbit of Nibiru. That's probably why they've been confused.

Space is full of mysteries, and sometimes, people mistake an ordinary comet for a planet or see an alien spaceship in a photo of a balloon. Check out our infographic to learn what common man-made objects are often mistaken for UFOs!

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What is planet Nibiru: summary

Nibiru is a nonexistent planet some think might crash into Earth or cause another big disaster someday. However, scientists see no proof or logic behind this belief. Now that you have learned the whole truth about Nibiru, you can easily pass our quiz about real and fictional space objects: you will definitely get at least one question correctly. And if you're concerned about space objects that could collide with the Earth, check our infographic on asteroids: you may be relieved by the fact that the chance of drowning is much higher than the chance of being killed by an asteroid impact.

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Keep up your interest in astronomy, and look up at the sky more often!