Monday, September 18, 2006

To Eris is human

Now that the dust has settled on the whole "Is Pluto a planet?" business (the official answer, in case you hadn't been following the latest motions and shakings of the International Astronomical Union, is a resounding "no"), it's time to give everyone's new favorite trans-Neptunian object — heretofore designated as 2003 UB313 — a real live name.

To the chagrin of Lucy Lawless fans everywhere, that name is Eris, after the goddess of chaos in Greek mythology. Or, if you want to get technical, it's 136199 Eris, due to the fact that as a dwarf planet, Eris also is assigned a number, as is the case with asteroids and other subplanetary solar system objects.

The trio of astronomers who discovered Eris three years ago had nicknamed the object Xena, after the character played by Lawless on the once-popular TV adventure series. Scientists in general being a stuffy bunch, the IAU turned up its collective nose at the idea of a major astronomical find (Eris is larger than Pluto, the body formerly known as the ninth planet) being named after the scantily clad heroine of a defunct entertainment program. However, in assigning the name Eris to the dwarf planet and the name Dysnomia (the Greek word for "lawlessness") to its tiny moon, the IAU proved that even science geeks with telescopes can sport a sense of humor once in a great while.

Lawless, the erstwhile Warrior Princess, was busy tuning up her vocal chords for the next episode of Celebrity Duets and was unable for comment.


1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

How the heck did Ms Lawless get on that show? I and any fan of the show can attest that she can sing.

9:48 PM  

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