"And then the great Rishis, approaching the gods, spake unto them, 'Lo, in the middle of the night springeth a great heat striking terror into every heart, and destructive of the three worlds.'" -- Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Section XXIV, 8th century B.C.
"Between the celestials [angels] and the Asuras [fallen angels], there happened, of yore, frequent encounters for the sovereignty of the three worlds with everything in them." -- Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Section LXXVI, 8th century B.C.
The late astronomer Tom Van Flandern of the United States Naval Observatory was not the first in modern times to realize that the asteroids which orbit between Mars and Jupiter are the remnants of a world destroyed by extraterrestrial intelligence and interplanetary warfare. In 1992, the British astronomer Nigel Henbest also wrote on the subject in a book called Mysteries of Mind, Space, and Time: The Unexplained Volume 18.
Circling the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter are thousands of broken fragments of rock and metal - the asteroids. The largest is Ceres, 620 miles (1000 kilometers) in diameter, roughly one twelfth of Earth's size and less than a thousandth its weight. The others range down to the size of mere grains of sand.
Ever since the asteroids were discovered, one thought has haunted astronomers: could they be the remnants of an exploded world?
The asteroid story starts many years before their discovery. In the year 1766, the German mathematician Johann Titius noticed a certain numerical relationship between the distances of the planets from the Sun. Shortly afterwards his discovery was popularised by the astronomer Johann Bode, and it became what is known as the Titius-Bode law.
The law goes as follows. Take the series of numbers 0, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 - where each number (except the first and second) is twice the preceding number. Add 4 to each, and the result is the series 4, 7, 10, 16, 28, 52, 100. Taking the Earth's distance from the Sun as 10 units, this series gives, to a great degree of accuracy, the distances of the planets to the Sun. The planets Mercury and Venus fall at 4 and 7 respectively; Mars is at 15 (very close to the 16 predicted by the Titius-Bode law), Jupiter at 52 and Saturn at 95 (close to the predicted 100).
But there is no planet between Mars and Jupiter, at the value 28 predicted by the Titius-Bode law.
In 1800, a group of astronomers met at Lilienthal in northern Germany and agreed to watch the sky for traces of the missing planet. Each of them agreed to search a certain area, but before this self-styled 'celestial police' had managed to track down its subject, it was announced that the Sicilian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi had discovered it by accident, on 1 January 1801. Piazzi named the new 'planet' Ceres; it was far smaller than any other planet, so tiny that it was invisible to the naked eye. Its motion through the heavens from night to night was the only thing that revealed it was not a star, and showed that Ceres's orbit was indeed that of the predicted planet. It began to seem as if the mystery had been solved.
A year later a founding member of the celestial police was attempting to relocate Ceres when he stumbled on another point of light, a second tiny planet orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The discoverer, Heinrich Olbers, named the new body Pallas. He at once concluded that there could only be one reason why the solar system had two small bodies where Titius and Bode had predicted a planet: the planet had once existed, but at some time in the past exploded into fragments.
The celestial police took to the beat once more. Within five years they found another two asteroids - the name, meaning 'starlike', given them by the great British astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822) because they appear only as points of light. Almost 40 years elapsed before a fifth asteroid was found; but when, at the close of the last century, astronomers began to photograph the sky, they immediately started picking up dozens of asteroids. Their technique was to use very long exposures; the asteroids then showed up as blurs, moving in their orbits, while the fixed stars were recorded as point sources of light.
Today the orbits of over 2000 asteroids are known; and astronomers estimate that there must be at least 100,000 altogether in the region of space between Mars and Jupiter that is known as the asteroid belt.
It is true that, as Heinrich Olbers predicted, astronomers have found countless fragments of rubble where the Titius-Bode law suggests there should be a planet. But was his theory correct? Are the asteroids the remains of an exploded planet? Controversy on this point raged throughout the 19th century. Rather than believe the asteroids are merely the unused building blocks of a planet that never formed, many astronomers argued that they must be the remains of an Earthlike world that had been overtaken by a catastrophe of immense proportions. ...
Only man-like humanoids, argue [Aleksandr] Kazantsev and [Felix] Zigel, could have triggered such a catastrophe, for it could only have come about as the result of an ... explosion of nuclear weapons. ...
Kazantsev and Zigel are convinced that their evidence is conclusive. ... planet Phaeton once orbited the Sun beyond Mars; its civilisation, more advanced than ours, invented thermonuclear weapons a million years ago. ...
Whatever anthropologists may say, Kazantsev and Zigel insist that it was survivors from the catastrophe that befell Phaethon, astronauts stranded in space, who descended to Earth as gods and led Man on his rise to civilisation.