SITCHIN'S COSMOLOGY AND PLANET X

© Ian Lawton 2000

We have already seen that Sitchin’s starting point is to ask who were the Nefilim or Anunnaki. Convinced that they were capable of space travel (which theme we will examine in the next paper), he turns his attention to identifying the planet from which they came. He examines the evidence for the Mesopotamians having astronomical knowledge far in excess of that attributed to them by orthodox scholars, and then quotes extracts from a number of astronomical texts for which he, for once, provides references [i] - and which, he suggests, indicate that the Mesopotamians considered our solar system to be made up of twelve planets. This would presuppose that not only did they know of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (the latter three only being discovered in modern times since 1781); not only did they typically count the Sun and the Moon as 'planets'; but also they knew of the existence of an additional twelfth planet.

He suggests that it is this factor which determined the number of gods in the supreme pantheon which he regards as being made up of twelve members. Further, he argues that they used this number twelve in a variety of contexts as a result - for example, dividing the heavens into twelve signs of the zodiac, the year into twelve months, and the day into two sets of twelve hours.[ii]

I have not investigated the astronomical texts to which Sitchin refers for reasons which will become obvious. However it is worth considering the main piece of pictorial evidence he cites - a six-pointed star surrounded by eleven spheres of varying size, which forms part of an Akkadian seal. For once this is not a hand-drawn reproduction but a photograph, and surprisingly we are once again given a source - we are told that it is in the Vorderasiatische Abteilung of the State Museum in East Berlin, and even given the catalogue number - VA / 243. However we should not hold our breath. Sitchin goes on to blow up the relevant section with a drawing and compare it to a representation of what our solar system would look like if the planets were placed to scale in a circle around the Sun, in order, rather than in linear fashion as we normally depict them.[iii] This reconstruction requires so much imagination and assumption that I could devote pages just to this one piece of analysis, but we do not have the time and it is not that interesting. Suffice to say that in the real version, the centres of the 'planets' are shown at varying distances from the centre of the 'Sun', for no apparent reason even if a simple circular rather than linear representation is indeed what the artist intended; and the relative sizes of the 'planets' are hopelessly inaccurate in most cases - Mercury, the Moon and Pluto being much too large, while Jupiter and Saturn are way too small.

The foregoing could be dismissed as inaccuracies in knowledge or simply artistic licence, since this is only a relatively rough engraving on a stone seal. However if Sitchin’s analysis has any basis, Mercury is effectively shown as a satellite of Venus (with Venus lying directly between it and the Sun, just as the Earth is shown lying between the Moon and the Sun) - and this point is completely ignored by Sitchin.[iv] Further Pluto is shown out of position between Saturn and Uranus - a point which Sitchin attempts to reconcile with events in the Epic of Creation (see below). Despite all the foregoing, Sitchin uses this seal as a major foundation for the existence of a 'twelfth' planet; for its position relative to the others - arguing that its orbit brings it between Mars and Jupiter; for its relative size - apparently smaller than Jupiter and Saturn, but significantly larger than Mars and the Earth; and for its role in the creation of Earth (see below). In my view this supposedly major piece of primary evidence is weak, and its interpretation selective and inconsistent.

The Creation of Earth

Sitchin places a highly literal interpretation on the Epic of Creation. This is another of the major pieces of evidence which apparently persuades him that this 'twelfth' planet was primarily referred to as Nibiru, and was the planet from which the Anunnaki came. Ignoring for the moment whether he has any grounds for such a literal interpretation, let us review the principal elements of his analysis.[v] (Note that in the main his interpretation requires the names of gods to be substituted for those of the planets, and these are provided in brackets where appropriate.)

In brief, he suggests that originally our solar system consisted of, in order of orbit: the Sun (Abzu), Mercury (Mummu), Venus (Lahamu), Mars (Lahmu), Tiamat (a planet then orbiting in what is now the asteroid belt), Jupiter (Kishar), Saturn (Anshar), Pluto (Gaga, which was then in a closer orbit - see above), Uranus (An) and Neptune (Enki). He argues that the planet Nibiru (Marduk) came from outer space on a retrograde path (i.e., moving in the opposite direction from the rest of the planets in our solar system), was attracted by the gravitational pull of the outer planets into an ever tighter orbit around the Sun, caused a variety of initial disruptions, and then on its second pass collided with Tiamat which split into two - one half forming the Earth which proceeded into a tighter orbit inside that of Mars, the other breaking up to form the asteroid belt. The Moon (Kingu), a satellite of Tiamat, was at the same time shunted into an orbit of the Earth (and because it had originally been a planet on its own before becoming a satellite of Tiamat and then the Earth, the Moon continued to be regarded as a planet in its own right.)

There are primarily two angles from which this interpretation should be judged. First, does his interpretation hold up under the scrutiny of modern scientific understanding? Although I am no cosmologist, my research reveals that there are a number of objections to his theories:[vi]

1 It would require an extraordinary series of coincidences for even one of the Earth, Moon, Pluto and Nibiru to stabilise in a different orbit after a collision without additional accelerative stimuli. It is therefore highly unlikely that they could all benefit from such an unlikely sequence of events.

2 Sitchin’s view of gravity and its effects is hopelessly inadequate. For example, he has Nibiru being affected by the pull of Neptune and Uranus, but there is no contra effect on them; gravity works both ways, especially since Nibiru is supposed to be of similar size to them, and yet their orbits remain to this day more circular than that of the Earth. Similarly, he suggests that the gravitational pull of other planets could cause 'bulges' in Nibiru sufficient to cause satellites to be ripped out of it; this is an idiotic view of how gravity works.

3 Nibiru had to make at least two orbital passes to tear Tiamat in half - and yet on the second pass it came back in roughly the same orbit, despite all the gravitational interactions it must have suffered on the first pass which should have altered its orbit considerably. From the opposite perspective, one might also ask why Nibiru managed to cause so much devastation on these first two passes, and yet cause none on the myriad of passes it has supposedly made subsequently.

4 As a corollary to the above, Sitchin uses another supposed text (unnamed) to suggest that Nibiru’s orbital plane is inclined at 30 degrees to the ecliptic.[vii] I am inclined to ask how, if this is the case, did it manage to come so close to so many of the planets in our solar system on its first two devastating passes? Or is he suggesting that once more unknown forces forced it to stabilise in this non-aligned orbit thereafter?

5 Nowadays the asteroid belt does not contain anything like enough mass to make up a planet the size of the Earth (i.e., the other half of Tiamat). However it must be appreciated that Jupiter would have acted like a giant suction cleaner on any debris from an exploding planet (a possibility that still cannot be written off, even if Sitchin's interpretations are wrong), and other factors would have reduced the extent of the debris remaining over time.

6 Bodes law predicts that not only should a planet have originally formed between Mars and Jupiter as Sitchin asserts (but which many astronomers believe never formed due to the gravitational effects of the massive Jupiter, leaving the asteroid belt only), but also that a planet should always have been where the Earth is now. Yet according to Sitchin the latter’s position was achieved subsequent to the original formation of our solar system, so originally this space must have been empty. This law supports him in one sense but at the same time undermines him in another - although at one point he does produce what appears to be somewhat contrived evidence, involving simplification of Bode’s Law, to refute this claim.[viii] (However in fairness it should be appreciated that Bodes Law is not as foolproof as it sounds, and is in reality only another 'theory' about how the solar system was formed.)

7 The idea that the Moon was originally a planet in its own right is not supported by modern discoveries; the latest thinking appears to be that, most likely, it split off from the Earth after the impact of a Mars-sized body.

8 Sitchin’s initial evidence for Nibiru having a retrograde orbit appears to be purely based on the order in which it encounters the outer planets - according to him, Neptune then Uranus. Given that the relative position of these two to each other must change as they orbit the Sun at different speeds, it appears to me that this argument is pretty insubstantial. I would have thought that in a sense it could just as easily have passed them in this order while travelling in a conventional direction of orbit.

9 In Genesis Revisited Sitchin goes to some lengths in attempting to prove that modern scientific analysis of the Earth and its crust, the theory of continental drift, and the study of plate tectonics all support his claim that the Earth as we now know it was formed by a huge impact.[ix] This may be so, but in my view his analysis does not support his theory of the Earth being formed by the splitting in two of another planet any better than it supports the more conventional idea of the Moon being split off from the Earth.

The second approach is to question the extent to which it is reasonable for Sitchin to even attempt to place a literal interpretation on this most enigmatic of texts. We have already seen that one of the motives of this relatively late Akkadian work is political - to elevate the late-emerging Babylonian god Marduk from local to national status. When criticising Sitchin’s interpretation, some of the orthodox scholars tend to place most of the emphasis on this factor - suggesting that this is the text’s primary purpose. While this is undoubtedly true, the issue is far more complex. Sitchin himself acknowledges the political influence, but argues that the text has far earlier Sumerian origins. In this he appears to be supported by many of the scholars, despite the fact that no Sumerian version has yet been discovered (apart from similarities in isolated passages). Furthermore the common practice of amalgamating originally separate texts and tacking on new passages is probably at work; for example, Marduk’s establishment of Babylon and the extensive listing of his epithets in Tablets V to VII are likely to be late additions, while a brief version of the creation of man story is stuck in the middle of all this. Since Tablets II and III deal mainly with the search for a champion to fight Tiamat - in which role Marduk finally offers himself - this leaves us with the likelihood that it is primarily Tablets I and IV, if any, which reflect important earlier tales.

Concentrating on Tablet IV, Marduk’s battle with Tiamat - who represents primeval 'watery chaos' - in which he splits her in two to create heaven and earth and restore order to the universe, is clearly a basic creation theme which ties in closely with that of many other ancient civilisations. Alexander Heidel points out that in Egyptian legends 'the air-god Shu separated heaven and earth by lifting the sky-goddess Nut from the earth-god Geb and placing himself between the two', and that the Phoenician and Vedic legends both contain the concept of 'the cosmic egg being split to create heaven and earth'.[x] Meanwhile Sitchin is quite right to draw parallels with Genesis 1:6-8:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.

Sitchin goes on to argue that the Hebrew word Tehom, used in Genesis to denote the 'watery deep', stems from the word Tiamat, and also that the firmament which was called 'heaven' is in the original Hebrew 'rakia', which translates as 'hammered bracelet', and therefore argues that it actually refers to the asteroid belt.[xi] However we have already that his etymological work is often flawed, and in any case I have little doubt that all these texts should be interpreted from an esoteric rather than a literal viewpoint. This factor, combined with the blatant cosmological flaws in his theory, in my view utterly refute his interpretation of the Epic of Creation.

Visitors from Elsewhere?

Even if Sitchin’s account of the creation of Earth is fatally flawed, is he nevertheless right to infer that the Anunnaki were indeed visitors from elsewhere?[xii] I can find precious little evidence to support Sitchin’s repeated claim that the Mesopotamian texts state that the planet Nibiru is where the Anunnaki originated.[xiii] In Stephanie Dalley’s translation of the Epic of Creation it is directly mentioned only in the brief passage which is quoted below, while the remaining references are all to Marduk - and it is only Sitchin’s creativity which links the two. Furthermore I have found no reference to Nibiru in any of the other literary texts. With no supporting argument Sitchin suggests that the multiple versions of a 'winged globe', which are indeed found in great numbers on a variety of reliefs from Mesopotamia and elsewhere, represent Nibiru [xiv] - but most enlightened commentators recognise this as a universal esoteric archetypal symbol. He goes on to suggest that various Babylonian astronomical texts [xv] and biblical passages foretell of the events which accompany each return of Nibiru,[xvi] but as I have previously indicated I have not consulted these in detail because of the evident weaknesses in the other aspects of his argument.

It is in fact Sitchin’s interpretation of the words Nefilim and Anunnaki which appear to provide most support for this assertion. We have already noted his argument that the Hebrew word has the Semitic derivative 'nafal' or 'nfl' which he suggests means 'to fall, come down, descend' - although, after quoting supposed backing from the 19th century Jewish biblical commentator Malbim, he exaggerates this somewhat in his books into 'those who were cast down upon Earth', and 'those who have come down, from the Heavens to Earth'.[xvii] As for the Sumerian term - which he translates similarly without any detailed explanation - there is no doubt that the separate word An is not only the name of the chief deity, but also translates as 'heaven'; similarly the word Ki as 'earth'. However as we have seen this does not mean that when they are combined the syllables can be neatly deconstructed to suit one’s purpose, and in any case I can find no support for the remaining syllables (un.na) providing the necessary meaning of 'fall' or 'come down'. The only attempts at translation of the entire term that I have found are by John Heise [xviii] in which he breaks it down as A.nun.nak and translates it as 'the semen/descendants of the monarch (nun)', and by Thorkild Jacobsen who translates it similarly as 'the sons of princes'.[xix]

It should also be noted that orthodox commentators suggest the alternative term Igigi is of unknown origin and meaning, while Sitchin insists it means 'those who observe and see'[xx] - which ties in with his theory that they remained in orbit, and is possibly backed up to the extent that one of the meanings of the Sumerian word igi is 'to see'. However, even if Sitchin’s interpretation is correct in this instance, it hardly represents overwhelming evidence of visitors from elsewhere.

Sitchin produces a variety of other examples of interpretations of words and reproductions of statues and stelae to support this argument. They are too numerous to be analysed individually, but suffice to say that there is strong reason to believe that they suffer from the same inadequacies as evidence as those we have already considered here and in previous papers. However he does produce one other piece of evidence that at least at first sight appears quite enigmatic, sufficiently so for us to consider it here. It is a most interesting circular clay tablet which was found in the ruins of Nineveh, and is now in the British Museum (exhibit WAK 8538). Although about 50 per cent of the surface is worn away, it is divided into eight equal triangular segments, and clearly contains an assortment of cuneiform signs along the dividing lines and elsewhere which are often repeated. More curious still are the 'arrowed' lines which appear in several places, along with at least two diagrams which look very much like constellations. Although Sitchin’s copy is hand drawn,[xxi] Alan Alford has reproduced a photograph which allows us to establish that Sitchin's blown-up drawing is reasonably accurate [xxii] (some of the cuneiform signs appear slightly different, but the scale makes it difficult to be sure of this). Sitchin quotes a number of turn of the century studies of this tablet in which a consensus that it is a planisphere of some sort appears to have developed. However these early scholars seemed to have struggled with the interpretation of what they considered, given its location and age, to be Akkadian cuneiform signs - which in this language made no sense.

He contends that it was only when he attempted to read these signs in Sumerian that they started to make sense, and revealed a 'Celestial Route Map' which records how the Anunnaki travelled to Earth via the outer planets. If he is right about the language used, based on the fact that this is a copy of an older Sumerian tablet, his interpretations of the words thereon are still open to question. Here are some examples: we have sham (not shem) translated as 'rocket', an interpretation we have already dismissed in detail; na translated as 'high', when the word an is the normal Sumerian term (because of the association with An), so this is perhaps a casual and inappropriate juxtaposition of letters; and apin translated as 'where the right course is set', when every use of the word that I can find clearly indicates it means 'plough'.

Sitchin’s further interpretation of this tablet is a hotch-potch of ideas which mixes, for example, supposedly technical flight direction details with mundane issues such as stocking up with grain for the return journey; personally I find it unlikely that the two would be combined on one diagram of such supposed importance. Furthermore I fail to see how such a technical set of instructions would be expressed using such unspecific terms as 'high', 'sky', 'mountain', 'set', 'change' and 'glide', which according to Sitchin are repeated numerous times apparently without further detail, and which in any case may be distorted translations of the cuneiform signs. Despite the fact that I do not believe this tablet supports his contention that space travel was at one time familiar to the Ancient Mesopotamians, I would accept that this enigmatic disc - which as far as I am aware appears relatively unique - deserves further study by experts.

'Planet Nibiru'

Let us briefly review the remainder of the points Sitchin makes about Nibiru itself. First, he provides further evidence (in addition to that in the diagram on the seal mentioned above) that Nibiru’s (retrograde) orbit takes it between Jupiter and Mars. His support for this comes in the form of extracts from the Epic of Creation, in which Nibiru supposedly 'holds the central position' (i.e., he suggest that it divides the other planets, excluding the Sun, into two groups of five) and 'in the midst of Tiamat keeps crossing' (i.e., it returns to the original position of Tiamat); and also of 'astronomical texts' (unnamed) which 'list the planets in their celestial order'.[xxiii] It is worth noting that at least the first of these, the extract from Tablet VII of the Epic of Creation which relates to several of Marduk’s epithets, is, as so often, somewhat at odds with Dalley’s version:[xxiv]

Nibiru: he does indeed hold the crossings of heaven and earth. Neither up nor down shall they cross over; they must wait on him. Nibiru is his star which is bright in the sky. He controls the crossroads; they must look to him, saying: 'He who kept crossing inside Tiamat without respite, shall have Nibiru as his name, grasping her middle.'

All we can say is that Dalley does accept the translation of Nibiru as 'crossing place', which seems to support Sitchin’s 'planet of the crossing' and his assertion that its pictographic sign is a cross (which, he claims, is the same as that for An) - although Dalley identifies it with Jupiter itself.[xxv]

Second, in answering the question as to why we have not yet observed such a large planet in the inner solar system, Sitchin uses a variety of textual references to suggest that it has a highly elliptical orbit which takes it deep into space at its apogee (furthest point from the Sun).[xxvi] These are as follows: From the Epic of Creation, he quotes that Marduk 'established an outstanding abode' - this is so innocuous that I have not even traced it to check its accuracy against Dalley’s version. From Job 26:10 he suggests that 'Upon the Deep he (the Lord) marked out an orbit; where light and darkness merge is his farthest limit', whereas the Authorised King James Version says 'He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end' - not much similarity there, so perhaps this is yet another of his creative translations, this time of the original Hebrew Old Testament. Finally from Psalms he suggests 'From the end of heavens he (the Lord) emanates, and his circuit is to their end' - I could not even trace this passage, but it is hardly conclusive even if the rendering is anywhere near accurate. Altogether then, not convincing evidence in itself.

Third, one of the chief units of Mesopotamian time measurement was the 3600-year 'sar', and Sitchin suggests that this measure derives from the periodic return of Nibiru from its deep-space orbit (because its appearance held so much significance for the Ancients that, having recorded its orbital period over many millennia and measured it at 3600 years, they designated the sar to represent this number). He further cites the apparent fact that this number was written as a large circle, and that the similar word shar was an epithet for the word planet which translates as 'perfect circle' or 'completed cycle'. Of course this could represent a piece of brilliant intuition, but somehow I doubt it.

It would be a mercy to leave this analysis of Sitchin's cosmology here and return to something more constructive. However, because Sitchin and his supporters make such a song and dance about it [xxvii], we must turn our attention to some recent findings which appear at first sight to support his claims of Nibiru’s existence: a number of modern astronomers have in fact gathered evidence - most of which came out after The Twelfth Planet was published - which suggests to them that what is in reality an additional tenth planet (if one ignores the Sun and Moon) might indeed exist in our solar system...

The Search for 'Planet X'

Neptune was only discovered in 1846 after astronomers had noticed perturbations in the orbit of Uranus. Similarly Pluto was only discovered in 1930 after its existence had been postulated because of irregularities in the orbit of Neptune. However observation of continued irregularities in the orbits of primarily Uranus and Neptune remained a puzzle to astronomers. It was originally believed they were caused by Pluto itself, but the discovery of its moon Charon at the US Naval Observatory in Washington in 1978 indicated that Pluto was too small to have the necessary influence on the other planets.

In fact back in 1972 discrepancies in the orbit of Halley’s comet had already caused one astronomer to suggest that a tenth planet may exist - dubbed 'Planet X' to reflect the number ten and its unknown status. The later revelations about Pluto, combined with theories regarding the gravitational force required to have so disrupted Neptune’s satellite system that, for example, Triton was forced into a retrograde orbit, led to a renewed search for Planet X spearheaded by two astronomers at the US Naval Observatory - Robert Harrington and Tom Van Flandern. They commenced with computer simulations which have been constantly updated, but observation was also attempted when NASA linked up with them in 1982 and announced that one of the objectives of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) would be to scan the skies for Planet X.

Sitchin and his supporters attached great weight to subsequent announcements made in the press, and two in particular. The first was reported in the Washington Post of 30 December 1983 (the italics in this and subsequent quotes are mine):[xxviii]

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 of Orion… [by IRAS]… astronomers do not know if it is a planet, a giant comet, a protostar… or a distant galaxy… 'All I can tell you is that we don’t know what it is,' said Gerry Neugebauer, chief IRAS scientist… Conceivably it could be the tenth planet that astronomers have searched for in vain.'

A proper reading of this announcement reveals it was hardly conclusive proof that Planet X had been found. However in his 1990 book Genesis Revisited Sitchin put what he termed the 'official denials' down to a government conspiracy to withhold information which was in fact shaping the end of the cold war, as the two superpowers combined to ward of the threat of imminent extra-terrestrial invasion. He also inferred that his own theories were ignored by the establishment as part of a cover-up, and used an assortment of contrived argument insists that although the multitude of satellites and probes launched in recent years and planned for the future had been officially searching for planets in neighbouring solar systems, in reality they were concentrating closer to home. However, as we will see, many teams of astronomers were involved in reviewing the IRAS data, and have written about it at great length. This does not smack of a cover-up to me.

The second announcement was reported in Newsweek of 13 July 1987:

NASA held a press conference last week to make a rather strange announcement: an eccentric 10th planet may - or may not - be orbiting the Sun. John Anderson, a NASA research scientist who was the principal speaker, has a hunch Planet X is out there, though nowhere near the other nine.

Hunch is the right word! On further investigation [xxix] we find that what Anderson had done was observe the lack of gravitational effects on the Pioneer 10 and 11 craft - which were by then well into the outer reaches of our solar system - and from this negative evidence postulated the possibility of a tenth planet which would have to have a highly elliptical and inclined orbit to produce no effect. Since this was only a supplement to the fact that he had recently become converted to the idea of a tenth planet by the theoretical 'irregular orbit' argument (having previously been a sceptic), this is about as unconvincing as 'evidence' gets.

Returning to Harrington and Van Flandern, both have been courted assiduously by Sitchin and his supporters because of the scientific backbone their work supposedly gives to his theories, and he quotes their work as if the existence of Planet X is almost a foregone conclusion. In addition to the 'announcements' reviewed above, Sitchin detailed numerous predictions about Planet X - culminating in his suggestion that by 1990 Harrington’s team believed 'that the tenth planet is about five times larger than Earth and about three times farther from the Sun than Neptune or Pluto', and that they had initiated all manner of searches of the skies, providing detailed instructions on where to look. Yet if you read Van Flandern’s own book, Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets, published three years later in 1993, you obtain a rather different picture:[xxx] [xxxiii]

Certainly if such a 'Planet X' were to be discovered in a highly inclined and eccentric orbit that approached Neptune’s orbit at perihelion and has a mass near the interesting range of 2-to-5 Earth masses, its existence would argue strongly for the essential correctness of the whole scenario [of the development of Neptune’s satellite system] just described.

A planet in the two-to-five Earth-mass range… could explain the observed irregularities in the planet orbits if it were presently located 50 to 100 times further from the Sun than the Earth’s orbit.

This is as explicit as Van Flandern got in his book, and hardly suggested the definitive distance, size, and orbital plane which Sitchin would have had us believe; as far as the orbital period was concerned, all the studies seemed to work on the basis of something like 500-1000 years, substantially lower than Sitchin’s 3600. Moreover Van Flandern indicated that further study of the orbits of a number of comets beyond Neptune - and possibly detailed changes to the laws of gravity - would be required before the mathematical calculations could properly predict the location in which observational searches for Planet X should concentrate 'if it exists'. Primarily because of this dissatisfaction with the theoretical data at that point, Van Flandern did not mention the IRAS observational programme at all. By contrast Harrington remained somewhat sceptical about the orbital irregularity data, and was therefore more inclined to use the 'brute force' mass computation and observational method, although with in his own words 'nothing to show for my efforts'.[xxxii]

We should also recognise that a number of other groups have been engaged in the search for a tenth planet in recent decades. All have pursued different logic and come up with different conclusions, some convergent, some divergent. These studies were thoroughly described by Mark Littmann, former director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City, in his 1988 book Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System.[xxxiii]

In particular, Littmann at the time quoted a number of experts who feel that reliance on the apparent deviations in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune to predict the existence of a tenth planet is misguided. He himself argued that the deviations are extremely small, and their analysis relies on data which has been gathered over several centuries; since it is highly likely that the older data - which has been collected using many different reference systems and has to be converted to a common reference frame - suffers from many potential inaccuracies, he suggests it is incorrect to rely on them to draw such conclusions. E. Myles Standish, Jr. of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory even discovered that these older observations suggest irregularities in the orbits of all the planets, and asks: 'Did Planet X visit each one on a grand tour'?[xxxiv] However, in fairness we should stress that Van Flandern based his beliefs not only on orbital irregularities but also on the idiosyncrasies of the Neptunian planetary system.

Continuing our perusal of Van Flandern's book, we find that although he supported Sitchin’s ideas of a 'dynamic' evolution of our solar system - whereby collisions and interactions continually form or change the roles of planets and satellites - his own theory of the creation of the solar system was completely at odds with Sitchin’s in the detail. For example he appeared to support the commonly-held view that the Moon was formed by splitting off from the Earth, and argued that the Earth itself was one of the original members of our solar system.[xxxv] Furthermore he argued that there is evidence that a planet that has nothing to do with Planet X exploded between Mars and Jupiter about three million years ago, and - in a self-acknowledged departure into pure speculation in a book which is otherwise highly rigorous and scientific - suggested that this was the home planet of the gods who, knowing their imminent fate, escaped to Earth, created mankind and passed on their knowledge.[xxxvi] Again this was totally at odds with Sitchin: he was talking about a totally different planet (one which exploded), the timescales were about 2.5 million years too early, and his gods died out early on, unable to live long-term on Earth due to its different environment. Intriguingly none of these discrepancies were mentioned in the book.

Although more work has been performed in the last few years since I conducted the bulk of the research for this paper,[xxxvii] I nevertheless believe we can draw only one valid conclusion. Planet X may indeed exist, as for that matter may Planet XI and others. But it has not yet been definitively discovered and observed. Furthermore the huge variety of theoretical postulations concerning its properties do not lend great credence to Sitchin's claims that its orbital eccentricity, plane, and period are so well defined that they confirm the details of what the Sumerians were recording 6000 years ago.

Furthermore, there remains an essential aspect of this debate which we have so far ignored: it is only if an additional planet could support life that its existence or otherwise would be of any real relevance to Sitchin's theme…

Life on Planet X?

In considering this question, let us first see what Sitchin himself has to say:[xxxviii]

The notion that the only source of energy and heat available to living organisms is the Sun’s emissions has been discarded. Thus, the spacecraft Pioneer 10 discovered that Jupiter, though much farther away from the Sun than Earth, was so hot that it must have its own sources of energy and heat. A planet with an abundance of radioactive elements in its depths would not only generate its own heat; it would also experience substantial volcanic activity. Such volcanic activity provides an atmosphere. If the planet is large enough to exert a strong gravitational pull, it will keep its atmosphere almost indefinitely. Such an atmosphere, in turn, creates a hothouse effect: it shields the planet from the cold of outer space, and keeps the planet’s own heat from dissipating into space.

What are we to make of this? For many years cosmologists had assumed that the planets in the outer reaches of the solar system would be mainly gaseous. Sitchin is right to point out that data collated by various probes over the last thirty years has proved this to be incorrect - most notably in the cases of Uranus and Neptune. Although hardly an expert, I can find no obvious fault with his assertion that distant planets can generate their own internal heat and atmosphere. However, remember that we are attempting to assess whether a race of beings who are virtually identical to ourselves (since they created us 'in their own image') could have evolved on such a planet. And in my view there are two fundamental objections to this.

First, both Sitchin and certain of the astronomers he cites are united in their belief that Planet X has such an elliptical orbit that at its apogee it is an extremely long distance from the Sun. Consequently, even if its core did provide sufficient heat to unfreeze the surface, it would be in complete darkness for most of its orbit.[xxxix] Second, the chances of its atmosphere being of similar composition to Earth’s when it has such different circumstances are highly remote.

Two further sources are worthy of mention. First, the apparent opinions of Harrington and Van Flandern themselves, as reported by Littmann:[xl]

He [Harrington] and Van Flandern still agree that Planet 10 should be a frozen methane, ammonia, and water world somewhat like Uranus and Neptune…

Second, the following report which appeared in the Sunday Times of 27 October 1996:

A new planet with an egg-shaped orbit has been discovered by American astronomers. It orbits Cygni B, a star resembling our own sun. William Cochrane, the head of the team that discovered the new planet, is baffled. 'We don't understand how it could have formed like this' he says. 'The new planet has a wildly changeable temperature as it swoops close to the star, then moves out into the far reaches of its solar system.' This elliptical orbit is similar to that postulated for Planet X by astronomers such as Tom Van Flandern. Its 'discovery' is mathematical rather than visible, which places it in exactly the same category as Planet X.

The phrase which I have highlighted in italics surely indicates that, even if it had its own internal heat source, Planet X itself would suffer from similar wild fluctuations in temperature as its orbital position in relation to the Sun varied by enormous amounts - having a massive impact on any life-forms which might inhabit it.

Once again a vital piece of Sitchin's jigsaw appears not to fit at all.

Summary

The Mesopotamians may have been aware of the existence of all nine currently-discovered planets in our solar system.

They may also have been aware of the existence of a tenth (or to them 'twelfth') planet, which they called Nibiru - although there is minimal support for this in the literary works.

Sitchin’s theory of the creation of Earth, and of the role Nibiru supposedly played in it, is most certainly incorrect - both from a theoretical standpoint, and because it is far too literal an interpretation of the Epic of Creation.

An additional 'Planet X' may yet be proved to exist by modern astronomers who are searching for it based on theoretical evidence.

This planet has not been discovered as yet, and theories about its orbital properties vary widely. Therefore even if it is discovered it is highly unlikely to support Sitchin’s detailed theories.

If this planet exists, for it to remain undiscovered by modern technology it must have a highly eccentric orbit, or an extremely remote circular one. Either would dictate that human-like life could not have evolved and prospered there. It could not therefore be the 'planet of the gods'.

Source References

[i] For those who would like to investigate further, the works Sitchin quotes are:

Charles Virolleaud, L’Astrologie Chaldeenne, 1903-1908.

Ernst F. Weidner, Der Tierkreis und die Wege am Himmel, (date unspecified).

S. Langdon, Babylonian Menologies and the Semitic Calendar, (date unspecified).

Fritz Hommel, Die Astronomie der alten Chaldaer, (date unspecified).

Charles F. Jean, Lexicologie Sumerienne, (date unspecified).

F. Thureau-Dangin, Rituels Accadiens, 1921.

These all appear to be relatively old studies; however since they do not necessarily concentrate on literary works but on perhaps lesser-studied astronomical ones, and since at least some of these authors are scholars whose work is recognised even by myself, we must not assume that their age necessarily renders them obsolete. Whether or not Sitchin’s quoting from them is accurate is of course another matter - and is something I have not investigated, for reasons that will become clear.

[ii] These arguments are contained in Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet (Bear & Co, 1991), Chapters 6-7, pp. 184-188.

[iii] Ibid., Chapter 7, p. 189, Figures 99-101.

[iv] Interestingly, astronomer Tom Van Flandern (of whom more later) suggests that Mercury may indeed have been a satellite of Venus during the early development of our solar system. However this does not affect my overall impression of the evidence.

[v] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 7, pp. 191-213. Sitchin’s analysis is highly detailed, and again for reasons which will become clear I have provided a brief summary only. Note also that, although I do not compare them in any detail, the many extracts from the Epic of Creation which he quotes are very much his own interpretations, and differ substantially from Dalley’s.

[vi] The bulk of this information comes from a posting by Rob Hafernik, who has a degree in Aerospace Engineering and worked as a government contractor for NASA on the Space Shuttle for three years.

[vii] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 8, pp. 222-3.

[viii] Sitchin, Genesis Revisited (Avon, 1990), Chapter 2, p. 39.

[ix] Ibid., Chapter 5.

[x] Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (2nd Edition, University of Chicago Press, 1951), p. 115.

[xi] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 7, pp. 208-9.

[xii] Sitchin, Genesis Revisited, Chapter 3, p. 46.

[xiii] Ibid., Chapter 1.

[xiv] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 8, pp. 217-8.

[xv] Apparently translated by R. Campbell Thompson in Reports of the Magicians and Astronomers of Nineveh and Babylon.

[xvi] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 8, pp. 218-221.

[xvii] Taken from Sitchin, ibid., Chapter 6, p. 161, and Genesis Revisited, Chapter 1, p. 19.

[xviii] Heise is a senior scientist in the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Space Research Organization Netherlands, whose high quality Internet site indicates that Assyriology must be a serious hobby for him.

[xix] Jacobsen, The Harps that Once... Sumerian Poetry in Translation (Yale University Press, 1987), p. 240, Note 10.

[xx] Sitchin, Genesis Revisited, Chapter 4, p. 87.

[xxi] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 9, pp. 246-251.

[xxii] Alford, Gods of the New Millennium (Hodder & Stoughton, 1997), Plate 41.

[xxiii] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 8, pp. 215-6.

[xxiv] Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 272-3.

[xxv] Ibid., Glossary, p. 325.

[xxvi] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 8, pp. 216-7.

[xvii] Sitchin, Genesis Revisited, Chapter 13.

[xxviii] Sitchin, ibid., Chapter 13, pp. 319-321. This is an abbreviation of Sitchin’s extract, which is itself abbreviated.

[xxix] See Mark Littmann, Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System (Wiley and Sons, 1988), Chapter 13, p. 204.

[xxx] Van Flandern, Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets (North Atlantic Books, 1993), Chapter 17, p. 312.

[xxxi] Ibid., Chapter 18, p. 322.

[xxxii] Quoted in Littmann, op. cit., Chapter 13, p. 198.

[xxxiii] Ibid., Chapter 13 and the Chronological Table on p. 258.

[xxxiv] Ibid., Chapter 13, pp. 216-9.

[xxxv] Van Flandern, op. cit., Chapter 19, pp. 332-6.

[xxxvi] Ibid., Chapter 19, pp. 340-2.

[xxxvii] Hence my repeated use of the past tense in this section. For example, see Alan Alford's summary of Van Flandern's current 'Exploded Planet Hypothesis' (it should be emphasised that Alford is now following this theory from an entirely non-Sitchinesque viewpoint). Also Van Flandern's own Meta Research organisation's web page (and again it should be emphasised that a new edition of his book has been published which I have not consulted).

[xxxviii] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 8, p. 229.

[xxxix] Again I am indebted to Rob Hafernik (see Note 6) for pointing this out—even though it should perhaps be obvious common sense!

[xl] Littmann, op. cit., Chapter 13, p. 199.