Screengrab via Spiritual Warfare/YouTube

How legit is this apocalypse theory?

The internet has always been fueled by doomsday conspiracy theories. In 2000, it was Y2K. In 2012, it was the Mayan apocalypse. With the total solar eclipse in 2017, it’s been Nibiru, the mysterious rogue planet that allegedly orbits the Sun every 3,600 years and is inevitably set to collide with Earth. Don’t panic. 

Tabloids and sci-fi novelists have propagated theories about Nibiru, or “Planet X,” for decades. The fact is, humankind is much more likely to obliterate itself through nuclear war than to get pummeled by a giant, mythical planet that’s never actually been seen (except briefly in Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013). Still, that hasn’t stopped authors, bloggers, and Hollywood directors from putting their own spin on the doomsday prophecy.

Here’s everything you need to know about apocalyptic shadow planet Nibiru—and its famous conspiracy theorists. 

13 things you need to know about Nibiru

1) Nibiru was first introduced by Russian-American author Zechariah Sitchin 

A self-proclaimed expert in Sumerian mythology, Sitchin gleaned references to a planet called Nibiru from ancient Sumerian writings. In his 1976 book, The 12th Planet, Sitchin wrote that Nibiru supposedly orbits the Sun every 3,600 years. (As the Washington Post noted, Nibiru is a fixture of Babylonian astronomy, not Sumerian.) 

nibiru Screengrab via Ancient-Astronaut Arguments/YouTube

2) Sitchin claimed that extraterrestrial beings lived on Nibiru

Sitchin said that extraterrestrial beings, known as “ancient astronauts,” visited Earth and contacted humans hundreds of thousands of years ago, radically reorienting the trajectory of human progress. These aliens allegedly influenced Earth’s culture, religious practices, and technological advancements. Unsurprisingly, scientists have dismissed Sitchin’s “findings” as pseudoscience.

3) Nancy Lieder brought Nibiru back into the public eye in 1995

Nancy Lieder, a self-described alien contactee and Wisconsin native, claimed that a group of extraterrestrials from the Zeta Reticuli star system abducted her as a child and planted a communication device in her brain. She founded the website ZetaTalk in 1995 to share information as a conduit of the Zetas, warning of Earth’s impending collision with Nibiru, which she renamed “Planet X.”

4) Lieder—or, the Zetas—pegged the collision date as May 15, 2003 

The power of this collision, Lieder claimed, would halt the Earth’s rotation for precisely 5.9 days and radically shift its poles, resulting in the disruption of its magnetic core and displacement of its crust. 

On her website, Lieder warned that people would try to downplay or cover up the impending collision:

The elite, those in power who know about this, in the US, Russia, Japan, Australia, and Britain, wish to keep the common man in doubt as long as possible. Thus the common man will go to his job, pay bills, respect police, fear the court system, and stay predictable. Should an announcement by the government that a pole shift of the magnitude we have described likely occur be made, quite a different scenario would ensue.

When May 15, 2003, arrived and the Earth showed no signs of being obliterated, Lieder revised her prophecy accordingly. She claimed her original collision date was a white lie from the Zetas to see how humans would react to their impending doom. Disappointed in their lack of preparation for the end times, the Zetas declined to give a new collision date. Here’s the kicker: All of this was after Lieber made a radio show appearance and told listeners to euthanize their pets before Nibiru destroyed Earth.

Nibiru Photo via Ridgewater College/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)

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5) The Nibiru collision was supposed to coincide with the 2012 Mayan apocalypse

Projected for Dec. 21, 2012, this new doomsday date synced neatly with the end of a 5,126-year cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar. It also inspired a pretty cheesy blockbuster film starring John Cusack that had very little to do with rogue planets or aliens. 

nibiru planet x Screengrab via YouTube

6) Neil DeGrasse Tyson publicly dismissed theories about Nibiru and the 2012 phenomenon

Tyson called Nibiru a “marvelous work of fiction,” though he did agree that the Sun and the Earth would align perfectly on Dec. 21, 2012—just like they do every Dec. 21, the winter solstice.

nibiru : neil degrasse tyson Screengrab via YouTube

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

7) In 2011, NASA astrobiologists officially weighed in on the existence of Nibiru 

In a video posted in October 2011, NASA astrobiologist David Morrison claimed there is “no credible evidence” to support Nibiru’s existence or the ensuing 2012 conspiracy theories. If Nibiru had been on a collision course with Earth in December 2012, it would have already cleared the orbit of Mars by the time Morrison made his statement. If all previous claims about Nibiru had been true, Morrison explained, it would have disrupted the orbits of Earth and Mars and been visible to the naked eye. 

Morrison estimates there are roughly 2 million websites dedicated to the Nibiru cataclysm, and he fields at least five emails regarding the rogue planet per day.

nibiru planet x Screengrab via YouTube

NASA astrobiologist David Morrison

8) Some Nibiru believers swear that the planet is hiding behind the Sun

While some conspiracists simply believe the government is involved in covering up the Nibiru’s existence, others believe it could be hiding behind the Sun. Morrison explained it would be impossible to “cover up” such a huge planet as it approached Earth. Many believers claim to have taken pictures of Nibiru, but more often than not, these images are just lens flares

nibiru lens flare - planet x Photo via ObjectivKRAFT/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)


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9) Christian numerologist David Meade predicted that Nibiru would collide with Earth on Sept. 23, 2017

“The existence of Planet X is beyond any reasonable doubt, to a moral certainty,” Meade wrote in his new book, Planet X—The 2017 Arrival. He also told U.K. tabloid the Daily Star that “the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017, is a major — huge — harbinger.” 

Meade used numerous Bible verses to support his theory:

  • Isaiah 13:9-10: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and destroy its sinners from it. For the stars and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.”
  • Matthew 24:29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

He claims that upon Nibiru’s collision with Earth, the stars will align to fulfill the prophecy at the beginning of Revelation 12.

nibiru update Screengrab via YouTube

10) Evangelical Christian publication Unsealed also claimed that Sept. 23, 2017 aligned with the coming of the Rapture

Unsealed argued that the Book of Revelations predicted the alignment of several planets, the sun and the Moon, and constellations Virgo and Leo. While this alignment did actually happen, it didn’t quite align with the end of the world. In the days leading up to Sept. 23, the site called for Christian readers to stay “awake and alert” while awaiting the next coming of the Rapture, or the moment when Christians believe Jesus will return to Earth and take devout believers to join in Heaven. “Open your eyes while there is still time,” the final line of the Unsealed homepage implored.

In the days following Sept. 23 (which showed no signs of a fiery apocalypse or the second coming of Christ), the site published a series of new predictions for 2017, claiming that there’s no way of exactly predicting the Rapture—but they’re pretty sure it’s still going to happen this year.

11) The number 33 explains how some conspiracists came up with collision dates

Meade regularly cites a numerical coincidence, which he calls the “33 Convergence” to further prove his theory. It consists of several main points that emphasize the significance of the number 33:

  • The Great American Eclipse will cause the sunrise to be dark, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, on Aug. 21—33 days before Nibiru’s predicted collision with Earth.
  • The black moon that will ensue from the eclipse only occurs once every 33 months.
  • Elohim, one of the names for God in the Hebrew Bible, appears 33 times throughout the book of Genesis.
  • The eclipse will start in Oregon, the 33rd state, and end on the 33rd degree of Charleston, South Carolina.
  • The last solar eclipse of this magnitude occurred in 1918, 99 years ago—or 33 times 3.

As for Meade’s credentials: Planet X News says he “studied astronomy, among other subjects, at the University of Louisville.”

nibiru : 33 convergence Screengrab via Numberphile/YouTube

12) Nibiru believers run detailed websites and forums detailing the prophecy

While Planet X is most frequently mentioned on tabloids and According to some of these forums, like Nibiru Update, the prophecy of Nibiru still exists, despite the lack of an astronomic catastrophe in 2015, 2016, and so far in 2017. Global Truth, an independent site dedicated to conspiracy, dedicates an entire section to reporting on the supposed arrival of the lost planet.

Reddit is also a huge (though, again, largely unverified) source for ongoing discussion about the existence of Planet X. One subreddit, r/Nibiru, was banned from the site for violating community guidelines. A secondary community, r/PlanetX, was set to private by moderators, who posted this message:

This was formerly a subreddit where idiots donned their tinfoil hats and proclaimed that some fictitious planet was on its way to “destroy us all”. Conspiracy theories might seem like harmless fun, but they’re actually quite insidious; they purport to be fact, when they are anything but. They are the oldest and original “fake news”.

Fortunately, logic has prevailed, and the conspiracies have been silenced. If you’re looking for a sensible, rational discussion please visit r/Planet9.

Within r/Planet9, discussion centers largely around new NASA discoveries, the science of gravitational pulls, and various hypotheses and lectures from astronomers or Planet X theorists.

13) There actually is such a thing as Planet X—and it’s not scary

NASA astronomers gave the name “Planet X” to the yet-undiscovered planet they believe follows a highly elliptical orbit far beyond Pluto. Researchers recently found evidence suggesting the existence of this “Planet X,” which may have a mass 10 times greater than Earth’s and take between 10,000 and 20,000 years to orbit the Sun. No, it’s not Nibiru. And no, it’s not going to hit us.  

Nibiru may reign as one of the most persistent conspiracy theories of all time, but rest assured that new apocalypse dates will come and pass and we’ll all still be here. Just remember: Whenever the human race triumphs over death, a new doomsday prophecy is sure to follow.

nibiru update Image via NASA/solarsystem.nasa.gov (Licensed)

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

Bryan Rolli

Bryan Rolli

Bryan Rolli is a reporter who specializes in streaming entertainment. He writes about music and film for Forbes, Billboard, and the Austin American-Statesman. He met Flavor Flav in two separate Las Vegas bowling alleys and still can’t stop talking about it.