Campaign to name Planet 9: "Nibiru"
On 20th January 2016, astronomers at Caltech released into the public domain robust evidence for the existance of an extra planet at the outskirts of our solar system, which is being labelled Planet 9.
Although counter-intuitive, the fact is, it's much easier to find distant exoplanets far beyond our solar system, than it is to find one in our own solar system. The most successful planet-hunting probe to date, Kepler, found hundreds of potential exoplanets, a hundred of which have been validated, and there are about 8 exoplanets which appear to be in the habitable zone. Super-Earths (which basically just means a medium size planet) appear to be the most common type of planet in the universe, yet we couldn't even find one here in our own solar system... until now!
When the existence of the 9th planet is confirmed, it will need a name. What better name for Planet 9 than "Nibiru?"
The name "Nibiru" embodies every aspect of the search for an additional planet -- a timeless questline with spiritual, philosophical, academic, and astronomical dimensions. Although not historically associated with serious astronomy, the name captures the spirit of the fascination our species has had with exploring our solar system and discovering new celestial bodies, and the name is known all walks of life, not just astronomy.
I've been inspired since early childhood by the possibility, brought to mainstream public attention in the 1930s by Lowell, that a "Planet X" may exist at the periphery of our solar system. I enjoy science-fiction and popular non-fiction, and in the 90s I read Sitchin's famous book, The Twelfth Planet, in which he concluded based on his study ancient Sumerian texts that an additional planet exists at the edge of the solar system, which the ancient civilisation called "Nibiru". Caltech's press release explains that Planet 9 could be one of the core planets, which would mean it could have been within the habitable "Goldilocks" zone before being "ejected into its distant, eccentric orbit" -- a scenario which is, conspicuously, consistent with Sitchin's expectations of the planet based on ancient wisdom recorded cuniform texts.
Sitchin's theory that another planet exists has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked and branded a myth for three decades, continuing after his death in 2010, even by NASA -- which conspiracy theorists, naturally, rejected as a cover-up. The counter-argument most widely cited to debunk Nibiru hypothesis has been the claim that there is no evidence and it would have been discovered by now: "There is no astronomical indication of the existence of another large planet in the inner solar system" -- an argument which ironically can its self now be debunked.
Nevertheless, in popular culture, Nibiru has become the unofficial name and byword for the undiscovered next planet along.
Astronomy and astrophysics are serious scientific disciplines. I trust those in the scientific community at the forefront of the search for Planet 9 won't take themselves too seriously to appreciate the genuine merit in this nomenclature. it's a serious suggestion.
22 January 2016