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Emily LakdawallaMarch 24, 2009

Name Orcus' moon!

There's lots of name-this-and-that in space right now -- there's the story about Stephen Colbert taking over the naming contest for Node 3 of the International Space Station (hilarious) and the recently announced list of possible names for Mars Science Laboratory (none of which, I'm afraid, is one that I can bring myself to vote for). But here's one that's new on me: astronomer Mike Brown is soliciting input for what he should propose to the IAU for the name of the moon of Orcus. Something that rolls off the tongue a little more easily than S/1 90482 (2005), its provisional name.

Orcus is one of the few objects in the Kuiper belt that's yet been dignified with a name, and, as Brown explains in his blog entry, it's interesting because it's sort of the anti-Pluto, an object traveling in a very Pluto-like orbit but one that keeps it forever opposed to Pluto, all the way across the solar system. Orcus isn't huge (Brown says it's currently in the neighborhood of the 8th largest object yet found in the Kuiper belt) but if you're not an astronomer with a really big telescope, opportunities to name objects in the heavens don't come along very often. So, if you feel inspired, dig a bit into the mythological origins of the names of the bodies in the Kuiper belt and see if you can come up with a suggestion that is likely to win over the IAU. (And please note that Brown has asked suggesters to give good explanations for why the name is appropriate. Colbert -- you got your space station, stay out of this one please!)

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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