South Pole Telescope
America’s New Planet X Tracker
Jacco van der Worp
Foreword by Marshall Masters
We feel radiation from the Sun
when we go outside on a warm day. That
warmth from the Sun is the infrared part of the solar radiation. Any object that is warmer than its surroundings
will emit infrared radiation until it cools off to the same temperature as its
surroundings. This telescope, then,
must be looking for something warm in the southern skies while discounting
other factors like reflectivity and radio emissions.
So what has all of this to do
with the Planet X debates that refuse to die?
What is the connection between this infrared telescope and the Planet X
mystery? What is Planet X, or what
could it be?
The most credible explanation
so far talks about a failed star; you can best look at it as a little sister to
the Sun. This little sister to the Sun
is a body that was not heavy enough to start its own fusion process and become
a star. Other than that, it has all the
characteristics of the early Solar system.
It is the central body of a ‘solar system’ of its own, radiating heat
into its immediate surroundings. It is
probably inside a rotating and gradually flattening disk of dust, where several
larger bodies have already formed by gathering smaller bodies together. Estimates place the mass of this body at
somewhere between 5 and 20 times that of Jupiter. The minimum mass for a star to form is estimated at about 50
times the mass of Jupiter.
Would Planet X or Nemesis be
visible to astronomers if it were approaching the inner Solar system in its
long-period orbit around the Sun? There
is a fair chance that not many people would notice it at first. The dust cloud should be fairly dense closer
to the body, but farther away from the body, it gradually thins out so that
light from stars behind it would begin to pass through. However, the change in light intensity of a
star being slowly obscured by this body would be so gradual that it could go
undetected for a long period, because we only monitor about 3% of the sky at
any one time.
Hidden like this, the body can
sneak up fairly close to Earth and still go undetected by mainstream astronomy,
the great masses of amateurs with backyard telescopes. As the body is relatively cool and dark,
what little visible light it emits does not shine through its own dust cloud;
or at least, it does not shine through yet.
Its heat does however pass through this dust cloud; therefore, an
infrared telescope should detect it much more easily.
This constitutes a perfectly
logical reason for a telescope with adaptive optics to be put on the South Pole
in a hurry. If you need to ‘see’
something that can best be seen from the South Pole and you want to track it
all the time, indeed a space-based telescope is not as good an option; nor is
Siberia. A telescope in orbit would be
moving around Earth and possibly not be able to look at an object all the
time. The same goes for a telescope in
In addition to this, adaptive
optics are also under development for visible light, another intriguing
clue. Could it be that whatever is
being tracked emits heat but not light, and several objects have been found
around it that do not emit heat? In
that case you would need a telescope that can observe both the visible and the
infrared spectrum as accurately as possible.
This makes the telescope more complex; then, a space-based telescope is
not as good an option any more; its cost will increase quite strongly.
If a government knows that
something is approaching and needs to monitor its approach in the sky with an
infrared telescope, would they not put the telescope where they could get the
best view? Of course they would! Nearly all that believe Planet X is
approaching say it is coming from below the ecliptic. This belief alone gives the South Pole a decided edge over
Siberia, and the complexity of observations to be done gives it an edge over a
space-based telescope. The only
decisive argument for this construction is to track something with a high
priority, and that something is probably what we call Planet X.
Xena — The
Hunt is On
Another celestial body located
below the ecliptic that has the almost undivided attention of the astronomical
society right now is recently discovered planetoid Xena. Xena has a strange characteristic that
cannot currently be explained, and it is this characteristic that warrants a
The problem with that closer
look, however, is that Xena is very far away, about 10 billion miles at the
moment (97 AU). Not even Hubble can do
very much at that distance, so an even more powerful instrument is needed to
take a closer look at it.
NASA Hubble Mission, April 11, 2005
Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' Slightly Larger Than Pluto
For the first time, NASA's
Hubble Space Telescope has seen distinctly the "tenth planet,"
currently nicknamed "Xena," and found that it's only slightly larger
Because Xena is smaller than
previously thought, but comparatively bright, it must be one of the most
reflective objects in the solar system.
The only object more reflective is Enceladus, a geologically active moon
of Saturn whose surface is continuously recoated with highly reflective ice by
Xena's bright reflectivity is
possibly due to fresh methane frost on its surface. The object may have had an atmosphere when it was closer to the
sun, but as it moved to its current location farther away this atmosphere would
have "frozen out," settling on the surface as frost.
Another possibility is that Xena leaks methane gas continuously from its warmer
interior. When this methane reaches the
cold surface, it immediately freezes solid, covering craters and other features
to make it uniformly bright to Hubble's telescopic eye.
The reason behind the closer
look becomes apparent here. Xena is
very bright, much brighter than it should be for a lifeless icy world. This brightness indicates that its surface
needs to be renewed regularly, either by comet-like activity or by
volcanism. Neither of those will likely
occur at the distance from the Sun the planetoid normally has, so the reason
for this brightness remains unclear for now.
Or does it?
You're Not Alone! Join with Like-minded
Others on the Planet X Town Hall
Below is a quote from an email
that Andy Lloyd, author of “Dark Star” sent to Marshall Masters recently. In this mail, he touches upon the subject;
he concludes that this unusual brightness of Xena must be the result of a
periodic encounter of the little planetoid with a massive body in the outer
regions of the Solar system. Could this
massive body be known by the name of Planet X perhaps?
FR: Andy Lloyd
TO: Marshall Masters
Subject: New evidence for Dark Star
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 19:12:15 +0000
I’ve continued to argue that the companion is still
present, waiting to be discovered. And
now a piece of evidence has emerged which suggests this very possibility.
One of the minor planets, dubbed ‘Xena’, is about the same
size as Pluto. It was recently imaged
by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Oddly, it has a very, very bright and reflective
surface. For an object, which always
remains more distant than Pluto, this is highly irregular, and it has the
astronomers baffled. Over time it
should have become dusty and grey, rather than icy and white.
For some reason, its surface is being replenished over
time. Yet it is too distant to undergo
cometary activity, and too small to generate enough internal heat to boil out
liquid from inside itself. The
properties of Xena are just like a small moon orbiting around a massive gas
giant. Yet Xena is on its own, in the
cold expanse of the space beyond Pluto.
So the image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope makes no sense.
Unless, that is, you allow for the presence of a massive
object out there which Xena periodically encounters. Under those circumstances, the nature of its surface features
becomes readily explainable: As Xena approaches what would have to be a Dark
Star, it begins to act like a comet, boiling up inside and shedding water and
other volatiles onto its surface and out into space. This would then account for its current bright appearance.
The reason why this moves us forward is that this process
must be current and on going. A
long-gone Dark Star could not account for the current high reflectivity of Xena’s
surface. One must still be out
there. The implications are staggering.
This question is another that
scientists could possibly answer with a telescope that has the ability to see
with Hubble quality or better in the infrared spectrum, using adaptive
optics. If Xena has internal heat
generation, something has to drive that process. Usually a changing gravitational field of a larger body provides
that energy: many of the moons of the larger planets show volcanic activity due
to tidal effects exerted on them by their mother planets. There is really only one possible candidate
for this tidal effect on Xena: yes, Planet X.
Still, this does not piece the puzzle together completely yet. There is another thing we need to look at.
On January 25, 1983 a
satellite was launched into orbit in a joint project by the US, the UK and The
Netherlands. The satellite was named
IRAS. Its mission lasted for ten
months; it was to perform a survey of the sky in the infrared wavelength
During its mission period, it
made four images of 96% of the sky, at 12, 25, 60 and 100 micrometers
wavelength. This way, it discovered
hundreds of thousands of sources of radiation; many of them have still not been
identified as of today.
After ten months, the
satellite was shut down; the reason was that the coolant, superfluid helium,
had run out. An infrared telescope on
board a satellite needs to be cooled to very low temperatures, a few degrees
above absolute minimum only. This
cooling process uses the evaporation of helium, and that helium ran out in
IRAS. The satellite then slowly heated
and became useless; at least, that was the official explanation.
But did it really happen that
way? There are techniques in use to
cool equipment to very low temperatures without losing coolant to other than
unwanted leaks. One such method is
called adiabatic expansion. With this
technique, a liquid is evaporating into a low-pressure environment; it becomes
a vapor, extracting heat from its surroundings and it cools them that way.
If you pump this vapor out of
the container it will warm up again outside and become a fluid again. Then, the pressure in the container will be
lowered so that more liquid can evaporate, cooling it even further. The energy you put into the process goes
into the extraction pumping. This
energy can be generated by solar power.
IRAS had solar panels for energy generation. The picture [taken from Wikipedia] shows those panels
It is therefore an enigma why
this coolant had to be shed, causing the satellite to be shut down after ten
months. But was it really shut
down? According to John Maynard, a former
CIA agent who provided Yowusa with technical advice during our early days, it
was not shut down. He told us that IRAS
was shut down to the public only, but imaging went on, specifically the imaging
of one object they had found.