Sun-dogs and Englishmen – revisited
A couple of times a month, I receive emails containing photos, or with links to YouTube videos, purporting to show the presence of Planet X near to the Sun. Usually, although not always, these images are taken by a camera looking directly at the Sun at sunset or sunrise. When I thank the sender, but provide a note of skepticism, I generally find that my comment (which has been sought by the correspondent in the first place) does not tend to go down too well. In most cases, I think the correspondents are simply seeking publicity for their images/videos and don’t really care too much for what I have to say about them. The forum on this website will offer an opportunity for readers to post and comment on these images and videos which I’ll set up later today. In the meantime, I wanted to re-post a blog piece I wrote in December which clarifies my position on this, and why I think that the widespread thinking about these images and videos is fundamentally flawed. Many will disagree, of course:
This concept (of an apparent PX body at sunset/sunrise) is widely discussed across the Internet by many who think that the images generated of Sun Dogs and lens flares show a partially hidden Planet X body. Although this is fine for the purposes of a doomsday sci-fi novel, there are several basic problems with this scenario, which I’d like to address here.
The Earth orbits around the Sun very quickly by solar system standards. As it does so, we are able to observe a vast sweep of the solar system – North, South, East, West – over time, dependent upon where we are situated on the globe. You don’t need to go to the Antarctic to see the southern celestial pole, for instance. Pretty much all of the celestial sphere can be seen from various parts of the Earth; with the exception of the relatively small part of the sky occluded by the Sun at any one time. So, if you think there’s a hidden Planet X-bearing down upon us, then it’s natural to want to hide it in the small patch of celestial real estate located behind the Sun.
In the time it takes for an incoming planet/system to arrive at perihelion from, say, Saturn (the most distant, visible-with-the-naked-eye gas giant) to perihelion between, say, Jupiter and Mars, sufficient time must pass for the Earth to have swept from one side of the Sun to the other – at least once, but likely a few times. So,for such an object to remain behind the Sun all that time, it would have to be essentially following a mirror-opposite motion around the other side of the Sun from the Earth. It follows logically that the longer it stays hidden from view behind the Sun, the closer its orbit approximates to just 1 Earth year. Clearly, this is nonsense, unless we’re hunting a mirror twin of Earth located on the diametrically opposite side of the Sun.
To get around this problem, you might be tempted to argue that this Planet X object has been propelled into the inner solar system incredibly quickly – coming straight at us in a matter of weeks, all the time located just out of view behind the Sun. But if that’s the case, with Planet X arriving in just the few weeks it takes for the Earth to cross one zodiacal house, then the incoming object cannot be bound to the Sun, but would have to be an unbound interstellar object on a hyperbolic trajectory. In other words, it’s flying straight through the solar system. By definition, then, this would not be a Planet X object.
The second problem with the sunset/sunrise scenario so common among Planet X debates online is that these images have been appearing for years and years. They can’t all be right, or even a substantial fraction of them, because a perihelion passage lasting years like this would fall foul of the issue I raised at the top of this email. Therefore, QED, the majority of these reports must be false. Logically, the longer these reports go on, the less likely they are to be real. You then have to ask, which ones are real, and which ones false? The old ones? The new ones? More likely, if most of them are evidently false, then probably all of them are false: Misidentified phenomenon, like camera artifacts, or environmental/meteorological effects generated by the light of the setting Sun.
Really, what Planet X hunters should be looking for are newly discovered objects located in the outer solar system with anomalous trajectories; not objects alleged to be right on top of us, hidden by the Sun. To paraphrase Indiana Jones, the sunset viewers are looking in the wrong place.
There’s also a third problem with the ‘sunset scenario’. That is the relative magnitude of the Planet X body compared to the adjacent Sun. The Sun essentially obliterates out the comparatively faint light from objects adjacent to itself, such is its overpowering brightness. To ponder this issue, consider how hard it is for astronomers to image exoplanets, even massive ones, in orbit around other stars. It’s not that they’re incapable of viewing the minuscule light reflected from these planets in their powerful telescopes, but that this light is so overwhelmed by the glow of the adjacent parent star as to disappear within it. And so would it be for a Planet X body peeping out from behind the Sun.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a Planet X body doesn’t exist out there. Indeed, I am an arch-proponent of such a scenario. It’s just that I also think that the sunset scenario is a distraction which puts a great many people off from contemplating a possible underlying reality to the Planet X phenomenon.
10th March 2016