Dwarf planet 2007 OR10 will finally get a proper name2007or10.name By Leah CraneA dwarf planet discovered over a decade ago is the largest body we know of in our solar system without a proper name – but that’s about to change. Meg Schwamb, an astronomer at Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, and her colleagues have opened a public vote to name the distant world, which is currently known only as 2007 OR10. They have selected three potential names that fit the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) rules on official names for minor planets, and will recommend the winner to the IAU, which will then select the formal name. So why now, instead of when the researchers discovered OR10 in 2007? “You can’t name something when you don’t know anything about it,” says Schwamb. “When we found it, I knew the orbit and generally the size.” Now, after lots of follow-up observations, we know more than just that it is about 1250 kilometres across and orbits beyond Pluto in the Kuiper belt. Advertisement Read more: Public vote renames planets after gods, monsters and scientists We know that its surface is covered in water ice, with traces of methane ice. When sunlight hits the methane ice, it turns red, which may be why OR10 is one of the reddest rocks in the Kuiper belt. The water ice may have welled up from deep inside OR10 sometime in its past through cryovolcanism. “It went from being this point of light to a whole world,” says Schwamb. And a world must have a name. The three names Schwamb and her colleagues have proposed are Gonggong, a Chinese water god who caused floods and chaos, Holle, a winter spirit from European folk tales who is associated with fertility and rebirth, and Vili, a Nordic god and brother of Odin. The vote is now open to the public. Even though OR10 is small, it has its own moon with a diameter of less than 250 metres, but that was discovered by another team, meaning Schwamb and her colleagues aren’t able to suggest names to the IAU. “Once we have a name for the primary object we can get a name for the moon,” she says. More on these topics: planets solar system
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