Makemake: Dwarf Planet Bucks Naming Trends
Celestial bodies are most often named after Greek and Roman gods, but Mount Olympus only has so many residents. So what is an astronomer to do when he or she discovers something new out in the void of space? The answer lies not off the coast of the Aegean, but in the South Pacific...
Mike Brown of California Institute of Technology, whose team discovered the small body in 2005, was stumped for a while about what to call his latest discovery.
For two years it was known in scientific circles as 2005 FY9. But Brown called it by the nickname Easterbunny, since the discovery was made a few days after Easter.
"Suddenly, it dawned on me: the island of Rapanui," Brown said in a statement. "Why hadn't I thought of this before?"
In the mythology of Rapanui—also known as Easter Island and Isla de Pascua—Makemake was the creator of humans and the god of fertility, an appropriate choice, as Brown's wife was pregnant at the time his team found the dwarf planet.
"While a rose by any other name would surely smell as sweet, the Kuiper belt object/dwarf planet/plutoid formerly known mostly as 2005 FY9 now smells a good bit sweeter to me," Brown wrote of the decision on his blog.