Friday, September 15, 2006

Introducing Eris

Long-time readers will know that I've been following the discussion created by the discovery of a "new planet," which later not only turned out to be not a planet at all, but took Pluto down with it.

I've continued to regularly check in with the website created by one of the "planet's" discoverers, astronomer Mike Brown of Caltech. He has continued to post updates as the International Astronomical Union (IAU) continued to debate what to do about this new discovery, and how to settle the problem of "just how are we going to define the word 'planet,' anyway?" Yesterday, I noticed that the page title had undergone a subtle change. No longer was the "dwarf planet" (as it's now understood) referred to as "2003UB313," but a name was revealed: Eris.

Oddly enough, I could find no information on how this new name came about (this has since changed), so I went to the Wikipedia article on "2003UB313," which I already knew existed, and found that the page had not only been updated with references to "Eris," but also provided a link to the IAU statement (file requires Adobe Reader), dated September 13, 2006, approving the names "Eris" for the dwarf planet and "Dysnomia" for its small moon.

Apparently, these names were chosen specifically as a reference to all the fuss that has been created since the object's discovery. It's nice to know that the astronomers have a sense of humor!

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