Meet Pluto’s trouble and strife

Xena and GabrielleAstronomers have proved they have a wicked sense of humour by choosing an official name for the distant world that got Pluto the boot.

They are calling it Eris after the goddess of discord and strife.

The icy object, on the edge of our solar system, had been nicknamed Xena by discoverer Mike Brown who found it from California in 2003. But it stirred up a quarrel in the space community because it was found to be bigger than the then ninth planet Pluto.

What is more, it became clear that both worlds were among a number of similar bodies labelled Kuiper Belt Objects, left over from the formation of the solar system.

Astronomers had to decide whether to make them planets too or to take away Pluto’s planetary status. Last month in Prague they voted to axe Pluto and cut the solar system down to eight planets.

An IAU subcommittee, part of the Minor Planets Center, gave Eris its new name. It has a small moon which they are naming Dysnomia.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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