According to a new study Planet X could have caused mass extinction events on Earth, including the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Retired astrophysicist Daniel Whitmire says that Planet X causes comet showers roughly every 27 million years. These comets could have caused mass extinction events on Earth.
New Whitmire study describes Planet X theory
Whitmire has been pushing his Planet X theory since his time at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as an astrophysicist in 1985. Whitmire and colleague John Matese showed that each time Planet X passes through the Kuiper belt, it dislodges objects which then pass through the inner solar system.
Some of these objects smash into Earth, and others disintegrate as they get closer to the sun. These events could result in global cooling and a mass extinction event on Earth. After checking paleontological records, the pair found that regular comet showers had occurred as far back as 250 million years.
Now Whitmire has published a new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. He claims that these periodic comet showers are in fact caused by Planet X, and points to updated databases which show catastrophic events occurring up to 500 million years ago.
Could Planet X be the same as Planet Nine?
Scientists are also looking for an undiscovered planet, known only as “Planet Nine.” Whitmire reconsidered his Planet X model from 1985 on the basis of this search.
A study conducted by California Institute of Technology (Caltech) claims that the undiscovered Planet 9 has around 10 times as much mass as the Earth. The researchers claim that its orbit brings it close to the Kuiper belt, and its mass means that it can dislodge comets that then fly into the inner solar system.
Whitmire observed similarities between his Planet X model and Caltech’s theory of Planet Nine. Could it be that they are one and the same?
Caltech scientists skeptical on link
“I’ve been part of this story for 30 years. If there is ever a final answer I’d love to write a book about it,” said Whitmire, who is currently working in the maths department at the University of Arkansas.
However Mike Brown at Caltech is not sure about Whitmire’s theory. Brown says that the ninth planet may not be Planet X as Whitmire and Matese hope it is.
“Whitmire has been speculating for decades about a very distant very massive planet pushing comets around. It has to have an orbital period of something like 27 million years,” Brown says. “While that idea may or may not make sense, it definitely has nothing to do with Planet Nine, which is much closer to the Sun and thus ‘only’ takes 15,000 years to go around.”
“The evidence for Planet Nine says nothing about whether or not there is a more distant Planet X,” he adds.
Instead of blaming a ninth planet for mass extinction events, it sounds like researchers need to concentrate on proving that it exists. Efforts may gain pace as more institutions start looking for it, and we could get some answers about the mystery that has bugged Whitmire for 30 years.
Should his hypothesis be proved correct, it could open new avenues of investigation into how our fellow planets affect evolution on Earth.