Space Time

The Largest Unnamed Object in the Solar System Is Getting a Formal Title

How astronomers are tapping the public to name 2007 OR10

Shannon Stirone
OneZero
Published in
4 min readMay 16, 2019

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The dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Credit: NASA

TThere are many distant objects that orbit beyond Neptune — the most famous of which, of course, is Pluto. But far beyond Neptune are numerous dwarf planets that range from Pluto-sized — 4,500 miles across — to even smaller and stranger. Some are shaped like footballs and others like perfect circles with orbits that take them further out than any astronomer ever expected to find a planetary object.

In 2007, three astronomers discovered one of the largest dwarf planets ever, coming in behind Pluto in mass and size. Its formal designation became 2007 OR10, marked for the year it was found. It remains the largest unnamed body in the solar system and for over a decade now, the planetary science community has been waiting for this dwarf planet to earn a real name. And now the time has come.

A few weeks ago the lead discoverer — planetary scientist and astronomer Meg Schwamb — announced that she was officially putting the vote in the hands of the public. She and her co-discoverers, astronomer Mike Brown and astronomer David Rabinowitz, selected three mythological names for the public to choose from and posted a website where the votes could take place.

Here are the options from the website:

Gonggong: “A Chinese water god with red hair and a serpent-like tail. He is known for creating chaos, causing flooding, and tilting the Earth.”

Holle: “A European winter goddess of fertility, rebirth, and women. Holle makes snow by shaking out her bed. She is a patroness of household crafts, especially spinning. She is linked to the Yuletide season, also associated with mistletoe and holly.”

Vili: “A Nordic deity. Vili, together with his brothers Odin and Ve, defeated frost giant Ymir and used Ymir’s body to create the universe.”

Gonggong was David Rabinowitz’s suggestion, Vili was long on the list, while Halle came later. “I’m happy with any of them,” says Schwamb. “I think they’re all great. Plus, I had to pick a name that would likely pass the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) parameters because you…

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