In researching the various aspects of this theory, I came across an interesting passage in a book the late Carl Sagan co-wrote with his wife Ann Druyan, entitled “Comet” (1). During their discussion of periodic extinction's on Earth, and whether this could find an astronomical causality, they touched upon the idea of the dark star, a body they termed ‘the Death Star’. Their book was first published in 1985:
“Most of the stars in the sky are members of double or multiple star systems. In a typical binary system, two stars separated by several Astronomical Units are doing a stately gravitational fandango. Often the stars are more widely separated. In some instances we see two stars gravitationally bound to each other, but separated by 10,000A.U. At least 15 percent of the stars in the sky seem to have a companion star at this distance.
The nearest star system to the Sun- Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away- is a double star with a third sun, a distant dim companion called Proxima Centauri, at 10,000A.U. from the two bright stars.
Often the companion star is very faint, suggesting that there may be many still undiscovered widely separated binaries. It is possible that most of the stars in the Galaxy are so dim that astronomers call them brown or black dwarfs. Most distant companions might be of this sort.
The solar system seems to be an exception. We do not know of any companion to the Sun. But if we were not an exception, if the Sun had an invisible star in a very specific orbit, then the extinction clockwork again might be understood.” (1)
Sagan and Druyan then go on to describe how such an ‘invisible’ star could have an elliptical orbit that occasionally jostles the comets in the Oort cloud and sends a deadly shower of comets our way. Their notional brown dwarf orbits ellipsoidally at about 1.4 light-years, coming to a perihelion position of 10,000 astronomical units. More interestingly, they go on to consider how the brown dwarf could be the basis of ‘primitive’ mythology, creating a myth of a Dark Sister for the Sun. Carl Sagan appears to have considered the Dark Star theory in 1985, when I was still at school! Yet, as we have seen, this subject is derided as highly speculative nonsense. Sagan’s reputation and skill as a communicator of scientific knowledge is second to none. He did enjoy speculation as well, and it only ever served to enhance his position in the eye of the public. He was willing to say what other only thought, and he is greatly missed.
He defended his inclusion of this material in this way:
“An invisible sun attacking the Earth with comets sounds like delusion or, at best, myth. But the theory is serious and respectable, if highly speculative, science, because the principal idea is testable: You find the star and examine its orbital properties.” (1)
I could not agree more. Speculation about Planet X, or a brown dwarf in the Oort cloud, and its connection with ancient myth, is a testable hypothesis and should be considered scientific. Unfortunately, in mainstream science, it is generally not thought of in this way. Dr Sagan was ahead of his time, no doubt about that.
Voyager 1 was sent on its way in 1977, the year after Sitchin’s first book, the 12th Planet came out. It enjoyed a spectacularly successful tour of the outer planets before heading into the Kuiper Belt and beyond. Interestingly, although it travelled through the plane of the ecliptic to rendezvous with the various outer planets, it did not continue in this vein as it left the planetary solar system. It was sling-shot off the plane, to rise at an inclination to the ecliptic in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus. Similarly, Voyager 2 underwent a similar, inexplicable sling-shot action off the plane of the ecliptic.
The Voyager Mission home-page gives details of its destination, albeit falling short of actually telling us of its stellar destination:
“The VIM is an extension of the Voyager primary mission that was completed in 1989 with the close flyby of Neptune by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. Neptune was the final outer planet visited by a Voyager spacecraft. Voyager 1 completed its planned close flybys of the Jupiter and Saturn planetary systems while Voyager 2, in addition to its own close flybys of Jupiter and Saturn, completed close flybys of the remaining two gas giants, Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 1 is escaping the solar system at a speed of about 3.5 AU per year, 35 degrees out of the ecliptic plane to the north, in the general direction of the Solar Apex (the direction of the Sun's motion relative to nearby stars). Voyager 2 is also escaping the solar system at a speed of about 3.1 AU per year, 48 degrees out of the ecliptic plane to the south.”(2)
Why sling-shot it out at 35 degrees to the ecliptic? After all, it is well known that Pioneer 10 is heading towards Taurus, in the plane of the ecliptic. The final trajectory of these probes to the outer planets was surely not a random, unplanned event. The Voyager probes had been successfully manoeuvred around other planets in the solar system in such a way that they would be accurately set on course for the outer planets. So the final leg of their journeys were surely not in the ‘lap of the gods’, but were similarly executed with some prior knowledge.
Of the four probes sent beyond Neptune, the two Pioneer craft, 10 and 11, maintained trajectories along the plane of the ecliptic.
Voyager 1 escaped the planets to the north, Voyager 2 to the south. This implies the
anticipation of future discoveries of new planetary bodies beyond Neptune. Spreading the net wide, as it were, would enable the mission scientists to triangulate the location of a massive perturbing body.
NASA have made it plain to all that the main part of the Voyager and Pioneer missions ended a while ago, when they completed their tours of the outer planets. There is little contact between mission control on Earth and the distant probes now. They are monitored to ascertain their progress, and gauge the position of the Heliopause as they move towards it. In this sense, their missions are not strictly finished, but there is no plan to try and discover Planet X. Nevertheless, perturbations in the orbital trajectories of the Pioneer probes have raised some questions, particularly with regard to their anomalous 'slowing down' (3). It is a tremendous pity that these probes cannot be monitored more rigorously, their remaining energy levels being too low to maintain useful contact.
Nevertheless, the information we receive about their relative positions is of use to us still. There is another interesting aspect about these probes. NASA included an on-board calling card from Earth on each space probe. Dr Sagan was instrumental in creating these messages from Earth, and I wonder whether his earlier interest in the ancient Sumerian texts about the Anunnaki had any bearing on his work in this area. Critics of this speculation might refer to Sagan’s discussions of ‘pseudo-science’ to indicate his general distaste for ‘alternative science’. In fact, many in the fringe sciences consider Dr Sagan to have been a leading debunker. The truth is more complex.
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Remarkably, some of Carl Sagan’s early writings directly pertain to the possibility of extra-terrestrial contact in our distant past (4). Dr Sagan was clearly far more open-minded to these possibilities prior to his work on Voyager in the 70’s. In his 1966 book “Intelligent Life in the Universe”, co-written with I. Shklovskii of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute and Soviet Academy of Sciences, Sagan writes the following:
“ I feel that if Sumerian civilization is depicted by the descendants of the Sumerians themselves to be of non-human origin, the relevant legends should be examined carefully. I do not claim that the following is necessarily an example of extraterrestrial contact, but it is the type of legend that deserves more careful study. Taken at face value, the legend suggests that contact occurred between human beings and a non-human civilzsation of immense powers on the shores of the Persian Gulf, perhaps near the site of the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu, and in the fourth millennium B.C. or earlier.” (5)
Sagan goes on to describe various cylinder seals depicting the Mesopotamian gods, and ties these images in with the planets in the same way as Sitchin. But we must remember that this analysis by Carl Sagan was published 10 years before Zecharia Sitchin released “The 12th Planet”. Remarkably, Sagan appears to have pre-empted Sitchin. Here, Sagan describes his analysis of the enigmatic Sumerian cylinder seals:
“The illustrations on the cylinder seals have for this reason generally defied attempts to understand them in detail. They refer to mythological material otherwise lost... In each, there is a clear representation of some celestial object--a central circle, or sphere, surrounded by other, generally smaller circles or spheres.
In the upper left-hand illustration of Figure 33-5, we see that the central circle is surrounded by rays and can quite clearly be identified as a sun or star. But what are we to make of the other objects surrounding each star? It is at least a natural assumption that they represent the planets. But the idea of planets circling suns and stars is an idea which essentially originated with Copernicus--although some earlier speculations along these lines were mentioned in ancient Greece.
The cylinder seal in the upper left-hand corner of Figure 33-5 shows, curiously enough, nine planets circling the prominent sun in the sky (and two smaller planets, off to one side). The other representations of planetary systems—if we may call them this--show, remarkably, a variation in the numbers of planets per star. In some of the cylinder seals, a star and accompanying planets seem to be associated with a particular deity.” (5)
These are clearly the same images that Sitchin used to develop his theory, although he also delved into the Epic tales, using his linguistic expertise with cuneiform script.
But the astronomical implications of the pictorial cylinder seals were clearly not lost on Sagan, regardless of his knowledge of the accompanying Epics. His analysis seems open to the idea that the Sumerians had an understanding of celestial mechanics that belied their own primitive origins.
Sagan seemed to be particularly taken with the account of the amphibious teacher Oannes, who brought knowledge to the neolithic peoples of the Persian Gulf, given by Berosus. He goes on to offer a scenario of E.T. contact based upon long-term, intermittent ‘sampling’ expeditions to the Earth, the frequency of which increased as Mankind emerged (6). Sagan was considering these possibilities back in the 1960’s, and may well have come to similar conclusions to Zecharia Sitchin. If he did, he did not discuss them in public. But to have extolled the virtues of ancient astronaut hypothesis would surely have set his scientific career back significantly. Sagan was clearly open to the idea that extra-terrestrials had visited our world in the past, and were contactable. This frame of reference may account for his inclusion on the Voyager team, particularly with regard to the communiques to ET intelligence carried by the probes. The plaque ‘bearing representational and symbolic information about the human race’ on Pioneer 10 appears to have been the brain-child of Richard Hoagland and Eric Burgess in 1971, who then passed the idea on to Carl Sagan (7)