Xena, warrior … dwarf planet?

By Phil Plait | March 29, 2009 8:00 am

Back in 2005, astronomer Mike Brown discovered an object in the outer solar system that turned out to be bigger and more massive than Pluto, and in no small way led to Pluto being booted from the Democratic Order Of Planets.

Tongue in cheek, he and his team nicknamed the planet Xena. When a moon was discovered, of course they named it Gabrielle. Eventually, once the orbit was properly determined, the IAU gave Mike the right to name them officially, so he went with Eris and Dysnomia.

Fast forward to last year. I was at Comic Con, and sneaked into the SciFi channel’s party (which is a whole story in itself). I got to get some interviews with the celebs there, and who did I see but Renee O’Conner, Gabrielle herself! So I caught her attention, and this is the result:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Humor, TV/Movies

Comments (31)

  1. Rob

    The video is listed as private, can’t watch it.

  2. Jason

    “This is a private video. If you have been sent this video, please make sure you accept the sender’s friend request.”

    Going straight to the non-embedded URL doesn’t work either.

  3. spencer

    :*( video doesn’t work

  4. Adrian Lopez

    Rupert. They should have called it Rupert.

  5. Ray

    Videe no workee.

  6. They really shgould have left it as Xena and Gabrielle! Just imagine what sort of mythology people would be discussing in 1000 years, and how those names came about. ūüėÄ Although, considering the IAU storm it caused, Eris is appropriate.

  7. chimango

    che, a mi tampoco me anda (doesn’t work for me either)
    i’ve also tried to see make make on my linux terminal but it says that it can’t build the objective “make”, snif! (eric@eric-laptop:~$ make make)

  8. Oops! I forgot to set it to “public”. :) Sorry about that! It’s fixed now.

  9. Randall

    @LarianLeQuella: I sent an email to Mike Brown complimenting him on the choice of Eris and Dysnomia; seriously, given the controversy they caused, those are the absolutely best possible names they could have gotten.

  10. I’m still hoping for a Kuiper belt object named Rupert.

    The names are definitely appropriate considering all the trouble they caused (I still see posts online whining about Pluto being demoted) but I liked Xena and Gabrielle a lot as names too.

  11. I love the look on her face when Phil says, “It’s an astronomy blog.” Ultimately, she’s cool, but at first she’s like, “Uh…”

  12. Brian

    And let us not forget that not only were the name choices Eris and Dysnomia inspired by the controversy, but Dysnomia’s literal meaning “lawlessness” was also meant to be a subtle nod to actress Lucy Lawless.

  13. c.

    I refuse to accept the “more scientific” names — they’ll always be Xena and Gabrielle to me!

  14. Phil2

    Well, thanks for rekindling my childhood crush on Gabrielle.

  15. wb4

    I thought it was pronounced ee-ris.

  16. QUASAR

    That dwarf planet was discovered in 2003, hello! The alternate name is 2003 UB313.

  17. Phil, The Term Lucky Dog comes to Mind …

    I’d LOVE to Hear The Story about just how you Managed to Sneak into that Particular Party …

    I Suspect, it’s a Real Hoot!


  18. tacitus

    Shouldn’t it be pronounced Dis-nomia as opposed to Dies-nomia?

    (Actually, checking into it, it looks like both are acceptable, though “Dis” seems to be favored.)

  19. hehehehe….you made a reference to the DOOP. hehehehe

  20. They kept the lawlessness intact! Tell me that’s not a coincidence.

    Hail Xena!


  21. Alan

    So how old does pop culture have to be before we can use it to name planets and moons? 2,500 years?

  22. Randall

    Hey, these things are going to have their names for a while. I say we stick with names that have stood the test of time.

  23. COlin

    Why can’t we name objects after modern pop culture? Why does it have to be ancient pop culture? Modern pop culture will be ancient someday!

  24. MadScientist

    Very entertaining; it’s great that folks like Renee O’Connor have such a great sense of humor. I promise I’ll buy your latest book if it helps you make it to the next ComCon, but first I promised someone else I’ll buy *their* latest book so you’ll have to wait until I save enough nickels.

  25. killyosaur

    @Randall If Mike Brown had named them officially Xena and Gabrielle, those names would have stood the test of time. Besides how many people do you think know who Eris and Dysnomia were anyway, besides the people who are knowledgable of Greek Mythology, or have taken the time to do the research into the names’ origins? Most do not, heck, most people think Pluto is Mickey Mouse’s dog.

  26. killyosaur

    Which he is, but the (former) planet by the same name is not meant to have been named after the dog but the god who shares the same name.

  27. Joe Meils

    This is when you, Phil, should have told her that you were leading the effort to get the bodies re-named officially for the characters… and you’d like her phone number so you could keep her in the loop on how the effort was going… and perhaps you could both discuss it over dinner….

  28. Great clip, Phil! Thanks for posting it. They should have kept the names as Xena & Gabrielle. They are part of Pop Culture but they are from Ancient Greece and personally knew many of the Greek Gods. If NASA can name a space shuttle after Star Trek’s Enterprise, why not name some heavenly bodies after Xena & Gabrielle? And as was already said, as Planet Xena and Moon Gabrielle, their names will live on for future generations.

  29. minsky

    i loved Renee’s reaction when the interviewer said he was from badastronomy.com. heehee
    anyway, they should have kept the names Xena and Gabrielle. lol.
    i’m still irked they haven’t named a planet Minerva though.

  30. Why can’t we just get rid of the IAU, as their planet definition makes absolutely no sense in saying that dwarf planets are not planets. Both Pluto and Eris are spherical, meaning they are large enough to be pulled into a round shape by their own self-gravity, a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium.

    If or preferably when, Renee publicly supports the planet status of all dwarf planets, that would be really impressive.


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