Spinfoil Monday: The Nemesis Star

Welcome to another edition of Spinfoil Sunday Monday, when we put on our protective hats and stare unblinking into the abyss. This week, we’ll be discussing the Nemesis Star and cyclical extinctions.

Last time we took a look at the wild theory that SIVA has something – somehow – to do with the worms.

The Nemesis Star theory states that the cause of cyclical extinctions on Earth is an as-yet-undiscovered dwarf star whose gravity sends other celestial bodies hurtling our way every 27 million years. As puts it,

Scientists speculated that Nemesis may affect the Oort cloud, which is made up of icy rocks surrounding the sun beyond the range of Pluto. Many of these chunks travel around the sun in a long-term, elliptical orbit. As they draw closer to the star, their ice begins to melt and stream behind them, making them recognizable as comets.

If Nemesis traveled through the Oort cloud every 27 million years, some argue, it could kick extra comets out of the sphere and send them hurling toward the inner solar system — and Earth. Impact rates would increase, and mass extinctions would be more common.

The as-yet-undiscovered part is the kicker. No one in the scientific community has come close to proving the existence of such an object, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great fodder for video games.

Now, if we place the Nemesis Star in the context of the Destiny universe, we immediately begin to see numerous parallels and allusions. Firstly, the collapse of the Golden Age certainly sounds like a mass extinction. In the Grimoire card “Darkness,” we are told this:

Something hit us. Killed our Golden Age. Nearly wiped us out. Only the Traveler saved us, and at a shattering cost.

The Speaker tells of a cosmic force that swept over us and caused the Collapse. Legend calls it the Darkness, the Traveler’s ancient enemy, which hunted it across space.”

We were “Nearly wiped out” by a power beyond our understanding. For that matter, so were the Eliksni (the Fallen), and the threat of extinction was what drove the siblings of Fundament’s Osmium Throne to eventually metamorphose into the Hive. In the case of the former, this event is referred to as “The Whirlwind.” In the case of the latter, the event is referred to as the “Syzygy,” or the “God-Wave.” Both whirlwinds and waves could, theoretically, be caused directly or indirectly by tidal forces acting upon cosmic objects. In fact, the Books of Sorrow inform us that this is exactly what happens:

Imagine the fifty-two moons of Fundament lining up in the sky. (It wouldn’t take all fifty-two, of course: just a few massive moons. But this is my deepest fear.) Imagine their gravity pulling on the Fundament sea, lifting it into a swollen bulge…

Imagine that bulge collapsing as the syzygy passed. A wave big enough to swallow civilizations. A God-Wave.”

We don’t know the cause of the “Whirlwind” that destroyed the Eliksni homeworld, but we do know that Variks says that it “Ripped away our past,” forced the Traveler (or Great Machine) to flee, and scattered the Fallen across the stars. But a massive whirlwind or firestorm could be caused by a large enough impact – say, a comet or other body.

So there’s the bones of the theory: mass extinctions, and possibly therefore the Darkness itself, are in actuality physically explicable events. Sort of. Because one gets the feeling that humanity, at the pinnacle of its golden age – or the Eliknsi, at the pinnacle of theirs – would have been able to predict predictable physical events. We know that the Krill (the proto-Hive) can.

We just don’t know if the event is real.

In the Books of Sorrow, the worms directly blame the Traveler for the Syzygy on Fundament: “Our organs detect a fifty-third moon in orbit of Fundament. A Traveler. Divine presence of the Sky. Now we know what arranged the syzygy.”


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Good news. The fifty-two moons of Fundament host a starfaring civilization far more sophisticated than anything you’ve encountered so far. Taox’s ship fled towards the large ice moon, where a species of bony six-armed cephalopods keeps their icy capital. Savathûn’s named them the Ammonite. They seem eager to grant Taox asylum. Idiots.

We tried appealing to their hopes and dreams. This was largely unsuccessful, basically because they’re already happy and indoctrinated. This angered us, so we’ve devised a plan.

Our organs detect a fifty-third moon in orbit of Fundament. A Traveler. Divine presence of the Sky. Now we know what arranged the syzygy.

You’ll have to kill them all and take their stuff. Once the Ammonite are out of the way, we can deal with the Traveler.

Do not hesitate. You’re fighting the hypocritical puppets of a cosmic parasite. Avenge your ancestors.


Now, the worms are not entirely known for their honesty. Or at least, their honesty is certainly questionable. They seem to be primarily focused on killing, and on receiving the tithe-benefits of the slaughter the Hive wreak with their help.

Instead, let’s take a moment to look at other references to the Nemesis Star in Destiny’s lore and flavor text. The first accompanied a Y1 Warlock exotic helmet, “Light Beyond Nemesis.” While there is no reference to cosmic bodies in the flavor text, it does mention the Pratītyasamutpāda, a Sanskirt term meaning “dependent origination,” and suggesting the interconnectedness of things. Now, Reddit user bad_implication has this insight to share about Light Beyond Nemesis:

“My crazy speculation: Light beyond Nemesis is a sideways reference to Alpha Lupi, the origin of the Traveller. Nemesis is the name of the (hypothetical) brown dwarf that is the cause of the cyclical extinction cycle on Earth every 27 million years. The “Light” beyond Nemesis is the Traveller that came from beyond our solar system, that is protecting us from extinction.”

This is a great theory that links the helmet with the Crest of Alpha Lupi that Titans and Hunters share, all of which allow for quick revives – or rebirth – and the creation of orbs of light. It’s interesting to note that the reference to Pratītyasamutpāda also implies cycles of cause and effect, or Buddhist cycles of death and rebirth. Or – time to get those hats ready – cycles of mass extinction.

The second reference to the Nemesis Star was revealed with Rise of Iron in the form of an exotic machine gun which shares that very name. The flavor text for The Nemesis Star reads: “What is the answer when the question is extinction?” First of all, this is certainly a reference to Destiny’s own internal lore. It’s a reference to those hypotheses listed in “The Darkness” Grimoire card we’ve already discussed, wherein various parties attempt to make sense of what the Darkness actually is.

It’s also a reference to Destiny’s numerous in-game factions (such as FWC, Dead Orbit, and New Monarchy), all of which have attempted to address the question of extinction with their own “answers” – fight forever, leave the solar system, and fortify the City with a monarch, respectively.

Finally, at its core, this flavor text is a straightforward question-and-answer prompt. What is the answer when the question is extinction? In this case, it’s all in the name.

The question: extinction. The answer: The Nemesis Star.

My spinfoil hat tells me that massive cosmic events – tidal waves, firestorms, whatever “Cosmic force swept over us and caused the collapse” – all have measurable, physical causes.


Because acausality and paracausality are very much a part of Destiny as well, and there’s a good chance these normal, physical events were caused by forces that exist outside the boundaries of universal law. Think of the Reapers in Mass Effect. Or the Great Evil in The Fifth Element. Or even the Traveler itself.

Whether the half-dead orb that hangs over The Last City is truly a Light Beyond Nemesis or The Nemesis Star itself remains to be seen. Perhaps, as the Pratītyasamutpāda suggests, the Traveler is both the question and the answer; the fuel for our Golden Age and the cause of its destruction. All light is interconnected, and everything in Destiny has a dark mirror – it could be that the Traveler’s reflection is nothing more sinister than itself.

Stay vigilant, oh reader mine. There is so much more to learn!