It started with the naming of the Kuiper Belt Object bearing the minor planet number 20000. When this body received the name Varuna from the Vedic the traditional protocol of assigning names to significant – and not to minimize asteroids – astronomical bodies for solely Greco-Roman deities was broken. Since then, a good bit of headway has been made in including previously overlooked cultural archetypes.
Of course the body that has really shaken up the solar system, much as Uranus previously believed he cornered the “shake up the solar system” market, Eris, received one of the remaining Greco-Roman names, and presumably an unwanted one at that. Mike Brown, co-discoverer of Eris, said in a lecture at the University of Arizona that the fact this notable name of an infamous and feared goddess withstood the rage of asteroid naming and remained unassigned, nearly made him a believer in astrology. He also said by all rights, Eris should be Persephone, but damn those asteroids! They used up all approximations of Persephone. Given that estimation, it is coincidentally funny how pomegranate juice became the hot health trend as the unnamed body to become Eris came to our attention.
Well before the naming of Eris, the object known as minor planet 50000 received a non-traditional name – Quaoar, a name derived from Tongva Native Americans whose roots appear in the Los Angeles region. Also arguably Native American, the Inuits of the Arctic region provided us with the name of their potent deity – the shaman goddess, Sedna, for the “fit no category,” “possible dwarf planet” numbered as 90377.
Tradition still prevails to some degree. In the Kuiper Belt we’ll also find Ixion, Chaos, Rhadamanthus, Huya – who can be of several different origins depending upon your Google source, and also traditional Deucalion, Orcus, Logos, Ceto and Typhon. We also have another Native American entry, Teharonhiawako, and just to mess with things entirely, an astronomer hell bent on shaking loose all tradition assigned Borasisi to minor solar system body 66652. Borasisi refers to the Sun in the fictional religion, Bokonism, created by Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat’s Cradle. Bokonism admittedly is based entirely upon lies, but if one follows the precepts one can live a contended life. How odd/ironic/curious for a body who is closest to the Sun in Capricorn and who sports an ascending node (heliocentric) in Gemini.
Recent naming efforts have focused upon the Pacific Rim. While waiting for assignment of the names of the dwarf planets Makemake, which comes from Rapa Nui, and Haumea, straight out of Hawaii, the Aborigines received a cosmic imprint of their lore as the body 148740 became Altjira.
There are some interesting correspondences. It is unofficially/officially accepted in astronomical naming circles that a body in a 3:2 orbital resonance with Neptune – as Pluto is – receives the name of an underworld deity. Those with orbits greater in length of time (actually it’s sort of based upon semi-major axis and a rounder orbit, though Eris is not one of those), the cubewanos shall take on names of resurrection/creation deity.
Altjira, Makemake and Sedna all contain bird men as part of their mythology. Makemake, from Easter Island, bore the colloquial interim name Easter Bunny. Previously Haumea was Santa Claus, Sedna was Flying Dutchman and Eris was Xena – which dang near started a false mythology culture to spread roots.
Jupiter is a huge player mythologically with the dwarf planets Ceres, Pluto and Eris. As well, Jupiter branches beyond mythological proportions with unifying astronomical facts. The perihelion degree of the dwarf planet Makemake is 15 Aries 22, that of Jupiter 15 Aries 21! Jupiter’s north node of 10 Cancer 31 is within reasonable orb to the 5 Cancer 54 perihelion of Sedna. Even the opinionated Jupiter gets it, orbitally reaching across cultures.
The names of Eris and Haumea were assigned because of their mundane/physical realities. Eris, the goddess of discord, because she was a small apple-like planet thrown in to create a Trojan War for astronomers and astrologers. The dwarf planet Haumea was once stuck by an object that sent her spinning and knocked seven significant pieces of ice from her body that follow her path (and she has two moons). Haumea, a Hawaiian fertility goddess sacrificed parts of her body for offspring to be born. In true mythic transformational form, Haumea’s rendered body parts were restored.
Now we embrace the possible dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Given its current run in southern declinations, I hoping the naming goes Maori. The Maori star lore is quite sophisticated and vastly knowledgeable of astronomy. Not only did their incredible vision permit viewing the moons of Jupiter, their “sight” understood galactic phenomena.
Finally, we observe the conclusion of Northern Hemisphere nomenclature domination and the lore of the sky allows humankind to reach out and act inclusively – at least in theory. Also in theory, Eris, the goddess who despised snubs and elitist attitudes, is pleased.