Xena no more!

Xena no more!

Xena no more!

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 13 2006 8:20 PM

Xena no more!

Phew! I was worried that 2003 UB313 was going to be stuck with the name of Xena, but the IAU just announced that it will be named Eris. This is an interesting choice; Eris was the goddess of strife and discord (the Roman equivalent is Discordia), continuing the trend that the outer planets will be named after evil (or at least badly acting) gods.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The moon of Eris, formerly known as Gabrielle, is now Dysnomia, the goddess of lawlessness.

Mind the pun here: Xena was played by Lucy Lawless! Man, that's funny. That must have been on purpose. I'll have to track that down. Update (Sep. 14):Yup, it's no coincidence. I did call Mike Brown, who discovered Eris, but have not heard back from him yet. If I get a good quotation from him I'll blog about it.

For what it's worth, I think it should have been named Persephone, who spends six months out of every year in Hades with Pluto (one of my favorite myths, and the reason I first tasted a pomegranate, in third grade). Really, Pluto's moon Charon should have been named Persephone, but it's too late for that.

Anyway, in that announcement also came the news that Pluto, along with Eris and the asteroid Ceres, are officially dwarf planets. This means Pluto can be given an official minor planet number, and it has: 134340. The announcement cryptically mentions "...two other new potential dwarf-planet candidates" and I'm not sure which they mean. Possibly Charon, Pluto's moon is one, but the other is not identified. Ceres? It already has a number: 1 (it was the very first asteroid/dwarf planet discovered, back in 1801). So I need to track that down as well... I'm posting this in a hurry to get the word out, and I don't have all the info yet.

So if you hate the fact that Pluto was "demoted" -- whatever that means -- then this is salt in the wound, I suppose. My own opinions are a matter of record.

Tip o' the Centurion helmet to Larry Klaes for the news.