Nemesis is a hypothetical red dwarf or brown dwarf star, orbiting the Sun at a distance of about 50,000 to 100,000 AU, somewhat beyond the Oort cloud. This star was originally postulated to exist as part of a hypothesis to explain a perceived cycle of mass extinctions in the geological record.
In 1984 paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski published a paper claiming that they had identified a statistical periodicity in extinction rates over the last 250 million years using various forms of time series analysis. They focused on the extinction intensity of fossil families of marine vertebrates, invertebrates, and protozoans, identifying 12 extinction events over the time period in question. The average time interval between extinction events was determined as 26 million years. At the time, two of the identified extinction events (Cretaceous-Tertiary and Late Eocene) could be shown to coincide with large impact events. Although Raup and Sepkoski could not identify the cause of their supposed periodicity, they suggested that there might be a non-terrestrial connection. The challenge to propose a mechanism was quickly addressed by several teams of astronomers.
If Nemesis exists, it may be detected by the planned Pan-STARRS or LSST astronomical surveys, or similar future projects. If Nemesis is a brown dwarf, as proposed by Dr. Dan Whitmire and Albert A. Jackson IV, then the upcoming WISE mission (scheduled for November 2009) should easily find it.
More info at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(star)