Conspiracy theorists around the world are nervous after a supposed Russian astronomer predicted that a massive asteroid will strike the earth on Feb. 16 – the astronomer said the result will be a mega-tsunami that will wreak devastation over a wide portion of earth’s landmasses. But NASA officials say the people of earth have nothing to worry about. The American space agency guarantees the asteroid will miss the earth by 32 million miles on Feb. 25.
Asteroid Close Flyby
The object was first detected by NASA last year. Dubbed 2016 WF9, the hunk of space debris appears to be a hybrid object, part comet and part asteroid in composition. It’s a sizable object measuring an estimated 0.3 to 0.6 miles across, but not large enough to produce significant damage if it collides with earth. The object will pass within 32 million miles of earth, not terribly close even in astronomical terms
A Fake Astronomer
Other also point out that Dr. Dyomin Damir Zakharovich, the Russian astronomer predicting the impact, may not only be a “self-proclaimed astronomer,” but may not be a real person at all. Several media sites, including the New Daily, say they have been unable to identify any legitimate astronomer in Russia, or any country, by the name of Dyomin Damir Zakharovish. No university system in Russia lists such a scientist on staff, nor are there any scientific papers published under the name.
The story gained steam after a British tabloid published a story about 2016 WF9 striking the earth quoting the mysterious astronomer, and an Australian publication picked up the story and ran it again. The story quickly went viral across the Internet fueled mostly by conspiracy theory websites and chat rooms.
But a real astronomer and professor at the University of Southern Queensland denounced the story as “categorically wrong.” Jonti Horner said the story is a classic example of the powerful “Murdoch Press” acting in an egregiously irresponsible manner.
Spotted by NASA Space Probe
The 2016 WF9 object was first spotted by NASA’s NEOWISE project on Nov. 27, 2016. NEOWISE is a deep space satellite telescope launched in 2009. Its primary mission is to spot and study asteroids and comets in our solar system, but also deep space objects. The space probe has discovered thousands of minor planets and numerous star clusters.
Its observations also supported the discovery of the first Y Dwarf and Earth trojan asteroid. The NEOWISE craft developed trouble with its transmitter in 2011 causing NASA to place it into hibernation. It was successfully reactivated in 2013, however. Another goal of its mission is to create infrared images of 99% of the sky.
The Nibiru Connection
The conspiracy theory surrounding 2016 WF9 was bolstered by relating the object to a fictional planet called Nibiru, a mysterious “Planet X” around which a tremendous mythology has developed in recent years. The so-called Russian astronomer said 2016 WF9 was “spun out” of the Nibiru system.
The concept of planet Nibiru has been greatly magnified by the enormous popularity of the books of speculative historian Zecharia Sitchin, an ancient astronaut theorist who claims that Sumerian culture was created by alien beings from the planet Nibiru thousands of years ago.
Nibiru supposedly exists in an extreme elliptical orbit and only comes into close proximity with earth once every 3,600 years, at which time aliens living on Nibiru visit our planet and meddle with human affairs. Sitchin’s book, The 12th Planet, published in 1976, has sold millions of copies and been translated into 25 languages. The book continues to sell briskly today in its 45th printing.