Andy Lloyd's Dark Star Blog
Blog 82 (January 2021)
Planet Nine's Fifth Birthday
Happy Birthday, Planet Nine (1)! Our protagonist remains Lost in Action. Any appearance of P9's birthday candles would more closely resemble a night-time vigil than a party.
Image Credit: Caltech
That said, the cold winds of scepticism have failed to snuff the candles out completely. Partly that is because of the romantic mystique of the Planet X subject, which has been argued for well over 100 years (and hunted by serious astronomers intermittently during that time). Partly because of the good standing of astronomy Professor Mike "Plutokiller" Brown and his genius dynamicist sidekick Konstantin Batygin within the academic astrophysics community. And partly due to the intrinsic problem of trying to prove a negative.
To celebrate (or invigilate) the anniversary, the Caltech duo were interviewed on Christian Ready's Launch Pad Astronomy show which is available on YouTube (2). The interview is somewhat plagued by glitches, but is both informal and informative. Mike Brown initially sets out the case for Planet Nine and the context of its remote position in the outer solar system. At about 10 minutes, following the first note of scepticism from the interviewer, Konstantin Batygin updates us on the cluster collective of scattered disk objects which seem to point towards the existence of an external perturber (the purple orbits in his slide shown here). Batygin indicates that the potential for this clustering to be a chance event is currently about 1 in 500. Brown then takes down the arguments for observational bias.
There follows some speculative discussion about how Planet Nine might have come to be, and the quixotic origin of its distant location. At around 27 minutes, Brown discusses the potential for the Vera Rubin telescope (currently under construction in Chile) to discover Planet Nine once it comes online. Throughout the video, the Caltech duo knock ideas around and trade opinions. There's also quite a lot of viewer questions about Pluto's demise as a major planet, which clearly remains a tense topic among astronomy aficionados.
Image Credit: Konstantin Batygin
Around 42 minutes, Batygin is asked about the six-degree obliquity of the Sun and whether this is due to Planet Nine (3, 4). Due to refining P9's orbit in recent times, that possibility has faded, he says (somewhat regretfully). Shortly after, Brown argues that the moniker 'Planet X' applied only to Percival Lowell's definition of an unknown planet which might explain anomalies with the orbits of Uranus and Neptune - now defunct. He dismisses the view that the term has legitimately taken on a broader meaning.
Personally, I disagree. It may be correct to say that Lowell's coining of the term 'Planet X' related to a specific astrophysical problem (and subsequent astronomical search, which led to the discovery of Pluto as a bi-product), but the term itself has evolved significantly since then. Oxford English's definition is telling - very broad, and no mention of Brown's tight criteria (beyond a questionable tangle with Pluto):
"A hypothetical undiscovered planet in the solar system, whose supposed orbit lies beyond that of the outermost planet known; (originally) that identified as the ninth planet and named Pluto; (later) a hypothetical planet or planets beyond Pluto. Also (especially Science Fiction): (an arbitrary designation for) an unknown or hypothetical alien planet." (5)
Earlier in the interview, Brown cautioned against a definitive IAU definition of a planet given the many pitfalls involved. Yet, he then argues for a very tight definition of 'Planet X', despite the term having been used by numerous astronomers down the years for a wide variety of proposed objects. I think it's fair to say common sense (and dictionary definitions) will prevail on this one.
There follows a sceptical but also light-hearted discussion of alternative (and conspiracy) theories.
Written by Andy Lloyd,31st January 2021
1) K. Batygin & M. Brown "Evidence for a Distant Giant Planet in the Solar System" 20th January 2016, The Astronomical Journal, Volume 151, Number 2,
2) Launch Pad Astronomy “Planet 9 with Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin” 16th January 2021
3) Konstantin Batygin "A primordial origin for misalignments between stellar spin axes and planetary orbits" Nature, 2012, 491, pp418-20
4|) Rodney Gomes, Rogerio Deienno & Alessandro Morbidelli “The inclination of the planetary system relative to the solar equator may be explained by the presence of Planet 9” 12th July 2016
5) Lexico "Planet X"
A Fledgling Dark Star System
The DH Tau system lies some 437 light years away, in the constellation Taurus. It's a young star system, and has been found to have a massive planet lurking at some distance from it. At 11 Jupiter masses, this exoplanet lies on the very cusp of being a brown dwarf. Because of its youth, it is relatively active, emitting a good amount of infrared radiation. So, even though it lies ten times further from its parent star than Neptune, it could still be directly observed by a team of Dutch astronomers using the SPHERE instrument (1).
Here's an example, then, of a young Dark Star object lying at a very significant distance from its parent star. Essentially, it is a massive Planet X-type object within the DH Tauri system.
Image Credit: ESO/VLT/SPHERE/Van Holstein et al.
It gets better. The light from this object has been found to be polarized, which is the first confirmed example of this phenomenon associated with exoplanets. The Dutch team simultaneously announced another polarised exoplanet, GSC 6214-210 B (2). These discoveries follows on from a serendipitous discovery of polarized light from a massive young object orbiting around the binary star CS Cha by the same team back in 2018 (3). The dust disk so obscured that massive object that its mass could not be determined, and so could have been a brown dwarf star rather than a massive exoplanet of super-Jupiter proportions.
In the case of DH Tau, the astronomers could be more confident of their calculation of the mass of the distant exoplanet. Their interpretation of the polarised light is that this indicates the presence of a disk of dust and gas. In other words, this Dark Star has its own protoplanetary disk, from which will likely emerge its own family of planets or moons.
Intriguingly, this dust disk is tilted compared to the plane of the parent star's own planetary system. This is interpreted as indicating that the planet has formed at a significant distance from the star. This flies in the face of the standard model of planet formation which would hold that the planet should form closer to the star (within its own porotplanetary disk) before migrating away.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
DH Tau b is therefore a significant find, beyond the significant technical barriers that have been overcome here. It demonstrates that Dark Stars (massive sub-brown dwarf planets) can form in a semi-detached way, presumably spooling in from a clump of material orbiting the star's own solar nebula. It shows that massive Planet X-type objects are indeed possible, and that they can generate their own planetary systems.
Sub-brown dwarfs can also form more like regular gas giant planets. One example, recently described by astronomers from UC Riverside, weighs in at five Jupiter masses, and takes 218 days to orbit its parent star, Kepler-1514 (4). The star is a little heavier than our Sun, and this sub-brown dwarf orbits from it at about the same distance as Venus. Many massive planets have been found near to their parent stars, and comprise the category known as 'hot Jupiters'. Compared with them, Kepler-1514b is quite a distant fellow, and this may help to inform the debate about how, and when, giant planets migrate. Even so, this has nothing on DH Tau b which is more like a binary companion.
Image Credit: NASA/Jacqueline Faherty (American Museum of Natural History)/OpenSpace
Sub-brown dwarfs are classified in a number of different ways. Along with their bigger stellar cousins, the brown dwarfs, scientists categorise them as either L, T or Y dwarfs.
"These brown dwarf varieties can have temperatures of up to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, but the Y dwarfs, which are the coolest, may have below-freezing temperatures and clouds made of water." (5)
As widespread analyses of the data from the WISE and NEOWISE infrared sky searches have indicated, our (relative) cosmic neighbourhood fields a good scattering of these objects - even the lowly Y dwarfs (5). This time, they are not hitched to their stars, but are free-floating objects. Perhaps DH Tau b will one day be wrenched away from its parent star by a passing usurper star, and flung into interstellar space to roam freely. The sheer variety of such objects is staggering, from large hot Jupiters, to Planet X-style behemoths, to wandering failed stars.
4) Jules Bernstein "Astronomers measure enormous planet lurking far from its star" 11 January 2021
5) Jet Propulsion Laboratory "Citizen Scientists Help Create 3D Map of Cosmic Neighborhood" 13th January 2021
Missing Rocky World
The solar system no longer appears to have a certain dwarf planet, bits of which still fall to Earth as meteors. The mystery of the lost world stems from a 9 ton meteor that exploded as it entered Sudanese airspace back in 2008, depositing 600 meteorites on the desert floor. The diamond-encrusted fragments also were later found to contain amphibole crystals embedded within the carbonaceous chondrite (itself a relative rarity amongst meteorites).
This mineral, in conjunction with a suite of others composing one fragment from one of the 600 Almahata Sitta (AhS) meteorites, indicate that the asteroid which enter Sudanese airspace originally came from an object which was larger than a regular asteroid or comet, but smaller than a planet. Scientists could determine this because each mineral composing the meteorite can provides clues about the temperature and pressure which the originating body formed under. This in turn, says a lot about its size and mass.
"The meteorite harbored an unusual suite of minerals that form at "intermediate" temperatures and pressures (higher than what you'd find in a typical asteroid, but lower than the inside of a planet). One mineral in particular, amphibole also requires prolonged exposure to water to develop." (1)
So, the problem here is that the projected parent object is not recognisable within the solar system's catalogue of rocky objects. It compares in size to the dwarf planet Ceres:
"Spectral analysis identified a range of hydrated minerals, in particular tremolite, a rock-forming mineral and a member of the group of hydrated crystals called amphibole. 'Essentially, this mineral forms under conditions that these meteorites were not previously known to have experienced,' said [Vicky] Hamilton [of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado]. '[This] points to intermediate temperatures and pressures and a prolonged period of aqueous alteration on a parent asteroid at least 400, and up to 1,100, miles in diameter.'" (2)
The hydrated nature of the mineral crystals also indicates that the original body contained substantial amounts of water. Was this a water-laden proto-planet that broke up during the early phases of the solar system? Although this 'intermediate' mineral fingerprint in meteorites is rare, it is not unique. It also showed up in the Allende meteorite, which is the largest carbonaceous chondrite ever found on Earth, which fell over the Mexican state of Chihuahua in 1969. This may indicate that these kinds of formation conditions in the early solar system were more common than the current array of solar system objects implies:
"Because Allende and AhS 202 represent different asteroidal parent bodies, intermediate conditions may have been more widespread in the early Solar System than is recognized from known carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which are likely to represent a biased sampling." (3)
In other words, there were a lot of watery dwarf protoplanets early on.
Alternatively, perhaps this dwarf planet is still out there somewhere, lying beyond Neptune?? There's a lot of uncharted real estate out there, after all, with plenty of dwarf planets among these-called Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs). Collisions between the dwarf planets in this immense zone would be rarer, however...but certainly not impossible.
Superflare Event detected on UltraCool Dwarf Star
A spectacular example of a flaring dwarf star has been observed by a Sino-French team of researchers monitoring variable objects in space (1).
Image Credit: Xin et al., 2020.
The star in question lies on the stellar border of brown and red dwarfs and is known as SDSS J013333.08+003223.7. It lies about 470 light years away. It is M9 type star whose temperature is usually about 2000°C (2). Remarkably, the temperature of the observed flare, by contrast, was about 5000°C (3). Quite a jump for an ultracool dwarf star! This extremely violent magnetic event was monitored carefully over the course of 4 hours, providing a rich new data set about dwarf star flares.
Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S.
These kind of events have been seen before on M and L-type stars.
They demonstrate that ultracool stars can punch above their weight at
times, and can be very active in their luminous variability. These
events also provide some caution about whether brown and red dwarfs can
provide havens for life within their habitable zones: Stellar
flares of these relative magnitudes might have catastrophic effects upon
These kind of events have been seen before on M and L-type stars. They demonstrate that ultracool stars can punch above their weight at times, and can be very active in their luminous variability. These events also provide some caution about whether brown and red dwarfs can provide havens for life within their habitable zones: Stellar flares of these relative magnitudes might have catastrophic effects upon attendant planets.
Written by Andy Lloyd,6th January 2021
1) Tomasz Nowakowski "Superflare detected on an ultracool star" 5 January 2021
2) "M-Type Star"
3) Xin et al. "A ΔR~9.5 mag Super Flare of An Ultracool Star Detected by SVOM/GWAC System" 28 December 2020, Accepted by ApJ
Zecharia Sitchin Official Documentary
Image Credit: TheSitchinArchives.com
A new video has been released by The Sitchin Archives about the life and times of the late author Zecharia Sitchin. The film includes personal tributes from family and friends, many of whom accompanied Sitchin on his Earth Chronicles expeditions. The video is free to download and is available from this webpage.
Thanks to Lee Covino for forwarding this link.
If you haven't come across Jude Gwynaire's music before, it's my great pleasure to introduce you to it. Gwynaire has had a long-standing interest in Ancient Astronaut theories, in particular the work of Zecharia Sitchin and my subsequent Dark Star revisionism. He has creatively explored these themes in songs and incorporated clues about them in his published novel, 'Aliens in my Garden'.
The cover artwork for his most recent Nibiru-themed singles is brilliantly eye-catching. In an interview with Skope Magazine, Jude Gwynaire elaborated on what Nibiru means to him:
"I called this mix 'Nibiru Mix' because Nibiru is meant to be the home world of the ancient extraterrestrial gods. Zecharia Sitchin believed it was a planet which returns to the vicinity of our solar system every 3,600 years or so. However, there is growing evidence to support the theory that Nibiru is, in fact, a brown dwarf or 'dark star' (a failed star of reddish appearance) that has it's own planetary system of moons. At least one of these moons could be heated by the brown dwarf, and so support life.
"The actual orbit of the brown dwarf around the sun is unknown - it may be much longer than the 3,600 years put forward by Sitchin. The actual phenomenon of 'Nibiru' might be the Brown Dwarf (or winged disk) appearing in the outer solar system, or, perhaps, one of the dark star's actual moons, which comes closer to earth during the dark star's perihelion. Either way, Nibiru is heavily associated with the home of the returning gods. There's an image of Nibiru in the cover, and also in the cover of my previous single 'Heliopolis - City of the Gods.'" (1)
It's great to see Sitchin's ideas inspiring such tremendous creativity! Check out his tracks on Spotify:
Image Credit: Jude Gwynaire
1) Skope "@skopemag Q&A Featuring Jude Gwynaire New Single ‘Inanna, Queen of Heaven (Nibiru Mix)’" 28th January 2021
'Innana' on Spotify:
Image Credit: Jude Gwynaire
This review describes Gwynaire's rock instrumental 'Heliopolis':
'Heliopolis' On Spotify:
This Skope interview explores Jude Gwynaire's creative processes and influences further:
Dark Star Blog Index
Dark Star Books Index
You can keep informed of updates by following me on Twitter:
Or like my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/darkstarandylloyd