Planetary Update: Xena Is Cancelled

The dwarf planet 2003 UB313 has been given an official name by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Unofficially named Xena, after the television heroine, by its discoverer Mike Brown of Caltech, the object will now officially be known as Eris, the Greek goddess of discord. And the dwarf planet’s moon, previously dubbed Gabrielle after Xena’s companion on the TV show, will now be known as Dysnomia, Eris’s daughter and demon of lawlessness.

The discovery of Eris/Xena was what prompted the recent definition of the term planet by the IAU.

The use of the Greek name falls into line with that of the other planets, which also have the names of Greek or Roman gods and not the naming convention used for other non-planets, that of deities from other mythological traditions like Sedna and Quaoar.

It should also be noted that the name Dysnomia shares its first syllable with Brown’s wife Diane. Similarly, Pluto’s moon Charon shares an initial syllable with Charlene, the wife of Clyde Tombaugh, its discoverer.

(Dysnomia’s association with lawlessness and the fact that the part of Xena was played by actress Lucy Lawless is assumed to be entirely coincidental.)

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