Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Nemesis Theory

The Nemesis Theory is one of the great ideas in the history of the world. It really is.

It's like this...

A paleontologist sifting through layers of fossil beds noticed that every so often the layers of fossils were topped-off by a bizarre layer of a substance called Iridium.

Iridium is one of the rarest elements on Earth. Yet here it was, in layers, topping off strata, or layers, in fossil beds all over the world.

Careful measurement of the age of the amount of time passing between the Iridium layers yield a modal average of about 62,000,000 years.

So, there was an appearance that once every 62,000,000 years, something was causing a layer of one of the world's rarest element to be spread like icing on a cake all over the world.

While it is very rare on Earth (except between fossil layers), Iridium is a common component in asteroids. So, the researchers thought, "Assuming asteroids pulverizing themselves into dust by smashing into the Earth once every 62,000,000 years is the reason for the Iridium and the regular mass extinctions generating so many fossils, what mechanism would cause asteroids to target Earth once every 62,000,000 years?"

And then somebody had a wonderful idea, again maybe the best idea anyone in science has ever had.

If we look skyward through our telescopes, we see that, surprisingly, most stars in our galaxy are binary or triplex star systems -- 1 of 2 or 3 stars orbiting one another.

Frequently, orbits of anything around something else in space are extremely elongated -- much longer than wider. If the Earth is part of a binary star system, and if the Earth's partner in that binary star system is a relatively small, almost invisible brown star companion, then that brown star companion might have one of those elongated orbits, 62,000,000 years in length, so that, once every 62,000,000 years, the brown star companion punches through the cloud of ice and rock around the Sun, beyond Pluto's orbit, called the Oort Cloud, and drags millions of asteroids and comets in with it by its own gravity.

These asteroids and comets become bullets in a shooting gallery, smashing into the planets for tens of thousands of years, until the supply of bullets is exhausted, and the planets thereafter enjoy millions of years of relative peace until the brown star companion punches its next hole through the Oort Cloud. Before that period of peace, Earth endures a mass extinction as it is bombarded with the brown star's asteroid and comet “artillery,” and is once again powdered with Iridium dust.

Scientists named the theoretical brown star companion of Earth "Nemesis" -- enemy.

Currently, some astronomers are engaged in a search for Nemesis, through the Oort Cloud, a difficult endeavor. Nemesis, if it exists, is believer to be about 1 to 1.5 light years away right now, racing for the highpoint of its orbit.

No, we don't expect another visit soon.


  1. Now THAT would be neat. I like it when something is actually discovered and it just shakes people. To find out that there were 10 planets (oh hold it, now there are sub-planets) and that the number 9 has been wrong all along was very entertaining. I could just imagine as people find out that we ARE part of a binary star system (new editions of that science book coming up next year). That would be so cool if they actually found a brown dwarf floating around. I never even heard of this theory or of the iridium mystery . . .

  2. The Nemesis Theory is just amazing, Tom. I believe that it is correct. And I think that finally we are going to find our brown star companion.

  3. Once I had the term 'nemesis theory', I went to a few web sites. The sites were more geared to mass extinction. they mentioned the iridium. They did mention Nemesis, but also that iridium is in the mantle itself and could be dispersed by volcanic activity. Large scale volcanic eruption produces huge amount of smoke/ash laced with iridium and it is dispersed through much of the atmosphere and settes.
    They didn't state it cleary, but they hinted towards it. The thing that would support the Nemesis theory, or at least certainly the meteor part of it is the cyclic nature of this event. If you want cyclic, space and the solar system is the answer. There are no timers on volcanos. There may be volcanos that can be predicted (seems like they go off once every 60 thousand years, or something like that. But the scale of these events would need to have multiple volcanos all on the same schedule, blowing off at each 60 million year interval. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't a brown dwarf. But we've seen planetary allignments of various types ever since man has looked up at the stars. And no event like this has taken place (otherwise we'd be extinct). Whatever it is, its BIG and its cyclic, and just given what we see now, there is nothing that big floating around. so its out of site.

    I guess, even with all the various scopes searching... searching ... all the bandwidths from radio waves and lightwaves from below and above our visible spectrum, its possible not to find things out there yet (i.e.our tenth planet is still very recent discovery in the timeframe/scale of things.)

    You'd think infrared scopes would pick this up in various sky charting activities going on. But, you mentioned it in your post, you're taking pictures through the oort cloud, so who knows how obscured the view is.

  4. I read of one other "cosmic clock" which could explain the periodicity of asteroid strikes -- the passage of the Solar System in and out of galaxy arms.

    But the periodicity of that event is not even close to 62,000,000 years.