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Scientists Need Help Naming The Largest Unnamed Minor Planet In The Solar System

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More than a decade after its discovery, 2007 OR10 remains to be the largest unnamed minor planet in the Solar System.

Astronomers Meg Schwamb, Mike Brown, and David Rabinowitz have launched a new campaign to find a suitable name for the distant world. They need the help of the public to choose.

Scientists Ask Public To Name Minor Planet

This is not the first time that the public has been entrusted with naming something and it almost always end up in disaster.

In 2016, for example, the National Environmental Research Council in the United Kingdom asked the public to suggest and vote for a name for the country's newest research vessel. The name that won was Boaty McBoatface. The NERC had to override the votes and name the research vessel after prominent British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

In 2012, Slovak lawmakers had to reject the proposal to name a new pedestrian and cycling bridge after popular action movie star Chuck Norris.

Fortunately, the fate of 2007 OR10 will not completely be in the hands of the public. Only the International Astronomical Union is eligible to assign names to celestial bodies and the scientists already have three names that meet the association's standards.

All the names are based on mythological figures: Gonggong, Holle, and Villi. The preselected names reflect the dominant attributes of the minor planet which, according to scientists, is an icy world.

Gonggong is a water god from Chinese mythology who is known to cause chaos. He is responsible for tilting the Earth.

Holle is a winter goddess of fertility, rebirth, and women. She is from European mythology.

Villi is from Nordic mythology. With his brothers Odin and Vé, he defeated the frost giant Ymir and created the universe using his remains.

The public can choose which of the three aforementioned names should be assigned to 2007 OR10. The winning entry will be submitted to the Minor Planet Center and the International Astronomical Union for approval. Voting ends on May 10.

The Largest Unnamed Minor Planet In The Solar System

2007 OR10 was discovered on July 17, 2007, while scientists were observing celestial bodies within the Kuiper Belt and beyond as part of the Palomar Distant Solar System Survey. It has an elliptical orbit with aphelion at 101 au and perihelion at 33 au.

Scientists estimate that 2007 OR10 is about 1,250 kilometers in diameter, making it smaller than Pluto. The minor planet also has a moon.

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