Striking Discord in the Solar System
You probably haven’t been waiting on this announcement with as much bated breath as for, say, the first Suri Cruise...
You probably haven’t been waiting on this announcement with as much bated breath as for, say, the first Suri Cruise photos, but just weeks after officially kicking Pluto out of the band formerly known as the Nine Planets, the International Astronomical Union has decided on the name “Eris” for the space rock 2003 UB313. Eris, Pluto’s Kuiper Belt mate, helped fuel the whole “What’s a planet?” controversy following its 2003 discovery, when astronomers realized it was larger than Pluto.
Before becoming Eris, the dwarf planet had a public identity crisis that would make even Diddy jealous. Its discoverer, Caltech astronomer Michael Brown, first suggested “Xena,” of warrior-princess fame, which was adopted by many media outlets in favor of the stodgy yet official 2003 UB313. Brown later suggested “Lila” after his newborn daughter and, most recently, “Persephone,” the mythical wife of Pluto, ruler of the underworld, but that name already belonged to an asteroid.
After a quick refresher on Greek mythology, however, Eris is clearly the most appropriate choice anyway. Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife, exceptionally proficient at stirring up jealousy and envy to cause fighting and anger among men. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of the Greek hero Achilles, all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris. Enraged at her exclusion, she spitefully caused a quarrel among the goddesses that led to the Trojan War. What a spitfire. —Bjorn Carey