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Nemesis: Death From Beyond the Oort Cloud. Brian Flewell; Student, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA 98505; 360-866-0619. May 27, 2004. Extinctions Are Periodic. Nemesis’ Mass. Observations and the H-R Diagram.

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nemesis death from beyond the oort cloud
Nemesis: Death From Beyond the Oort Cloud

Brian Flewell; Student, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA 98505; 360-866-0619

May 27, 2004

Extinctions Are Periodic

Nemesis’ Mass

Observations and the H-R Diagram

In the last three decades, greater and greater proof of asteroid or comet impacts have begun to show why there is an apparent periodicity to the extinction rate.

Note the peaks on this chart. They are very nearly evenly spaced at 29-million years.

Nemesis’ mass is critical to what Nemesis may be. In order to be considered a Brown Dwarf, a star that didn’t accrete enough mass to begin Hydrogen fusion, Nemesis must have a mass at least 10 times that of Jupiter.

The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram allows us to classify stars based on their luminosity and surface temperature. After finding examples of many of the spectral types through 20x80 binoculars, I was able to more fully understand the diagram itself. From my research, I estimate Nemesis’ surface temperature

The Nemesis theory arose in the 1980s as one of three possible explanations to, seemingly, periodic mass extinctions in the earth’s geologic record. According to Jack Sepkoski and David Raup, there is a 26-million to 31-million year cycle of mass extinctions dating back as far as 600-million year to the Precambrian era.

This research is backed by M. Davis, P. Hut, and R.A. Muller who studied the impact history of several of Earth’s craters, announcing a 28-million year periodicity.

It is with this in mind, I wanted to determine if the Nemesis theory is the most plausible explanation to a periodic mass extinction on Earth.

Kepler’s Third Law states: where P is the Period in years, m1 is the primary mass in kilograms, m2 is the secondary mass in kilograms, and a is the semi-major axis in Astronomical Units. To determine that mass of an unknown object we use the equation:

Using the data: P=29.2*106 years, m1 = 2*1030kg (MΘ), and a = 94860 A.U. we determine the mass of Nemesis to be approximately 8.6*10-4MΘ, or 1.72*1026 kg. This shows that the mass of Nemesis is somewhere between Uranus and Saturn. Far too small to be a Brown Dwarf.…/cambrian/cambrianex1.html

It is commonly accepted that the impact crater in the Yucatan Peninsula is from the K-T impact, the death blow to the Dinosaurs 65-million years ago. It has been recently shown that the Permian-Triassic extinction 251-million years ago was also caused by an asteroid impact. It is becoming more likely that most, if not all, mass extinction events are caused by extraterrestrial sources.

to be close to 1500K. This chart does not show beyond the M classification. But the next step down is called L. An L5 star, such as a 19MJ Nemesis would be, would have the surface temperature of 1500K and an absolute magnitude of +20.

Nemesis’ Orbit

Observable Trials of the Nemesis Theory

Nemesis’ Magnitude


Does/Can Nemesis Exist?

Can the data collected by paleontologists and physicists who presented a possible explanation to Sepkoski and Raup’s periodic extinction theory be proven?

By understanding the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) Diagram, can an apparent magnitude (from Earth) of Nemesis be determined?

Can a proof for Nemesis be developed to show Nemesis’ gravitational pull on the Sun?

To determine what effects Nemesis would have on Sol, we will test the 19MJupiter that I have earlier presented. First, assuming that all planets in the Solar System have negligible effects on the Sun, a Saturn size Nemesis would also have a negligible effect on Sol and therefor be undetectable. To test the 19 MJupiter we will use Kepler’s First law to find the center of gravity and determine a binary orbit. Kepler’s First law states:

Comparing m (mass) with r (radius) to determine the center of gravity in a binary system (R =1).

To determine the value or r1, the distance the sun resides from the center of gravity, we derive the formula to:

Using the values m2 = 1.72*1026 kg and r2 = 94860, we find r1 to be 1.05 *10-5AU or 980 miles per 26 million years or about

2.3 inches per year.

Assuming Nemesis has a 19MJ, with a surface temperature of 1500K, it’s location on the H-R diagram would classify it as a spectral type L5. This would indicate that Nemesis would have an absolute magnitude of close to +20.

The relationship between the apparent magnitude and the absolute magnitude of an object is expressed as m-M = 5 log d-5, where m is apparent magnitude, M is absolute magnitude, and d is distance in parsecs. Knowing M = 20 and d = .5, we find that

m-20 = -5 log |.5-5| or m-20 = -3.26

From this we now know that the apparent magnitude of Nemesis should be approximately magnitude 16. Far dimmer than can be seen by the naked eye and beyond the limits of binoculars. Some of the more powerful telescopes could see it. If they knew where to look. Unfortunately, we have no evidence to determine an exact orbit.

In order for Nemesis to have the proper orbit of 29-million years, it must have a semi-major axis of 1.5 light-years away from the sun. This orbit it highly elliptical, bringing Nemesis as close as .5 light-years, in to the Oort Cloud of comets and as far as 3 light-years, 3/4 the distance to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.

To confirm the period of Nemesis, we use the Keplerian Velocity Curve a3 = p2. Where a is the semi-major axis of 94860 A.U. (1.5 light-years) and p is the period of Nemesis.

948603 = 8.5*1014 p2= 8.5*1014 √p2=√8.5*1014=29.2*106

p = 29.2 *106 years!




Based on my calculations, Nemesis has a semi-major axis of 1.5 light-years or 94,860A.U. Which does give this object the necessary period of 29.2-million years. After studying the graphs and proofs of the extinction record, It is the opinion of this researcher that most, if not all, of the mass extinctions over the past 250-million years have been caused by comet and/or asteroid impacts.

However, the theory of a brown dwarf is unlikely, my thesis incorrect. My mass calculations show the mass to be 1.72*1026 kg, far smaller than Jupiter and no where large enough to be a brown dwarf.

This does not, however, rule out the probability of a Jovan sized planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. There is still the unsolved question of what is causing the periodic bombardment of the inner solar system. My research can not answer this.

I would like to thank the following people for the help with my project:

My roommates at Evergreen, for putting up with my late nights sitting at the computer.

My classmates in Astronomy and Cosmologies and Science Seminar, our discussions have greatly expanded my knowledge of the universe.

The Cooper Point Journal; Sophal, Renata, Katie, Rob, and Mitch, for putting up with my astronomy articles and the spellings of ancient Greek words, week after week.

My Parents, for funding my education.

Russell Allen, the Ronin of Bremerton, with whom I discuss and debate all my insane theories.

All those I have forgotten to mention, there is just so little space on this one little slide.

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Nemesis is one of many theories to be put forward to answer the question of periodic extinctions on Earth. I hope to show that a sub-stellar object, a brown dwarf, beyond Pluto is causing an increase in the amount of comets and comet fragments from the Oort Cloud and the Kupier Belt that are sent to the inner Solar System, resulting in the increased probability of a comet impacting Earth.