More than a decade ago, three astronomers discovered a minor planet orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune.
Now they need your help in naming it.
To avoid another Boaty McBoatface situation, the team—Meg Schwamb, Mike Brown, and David Rabinowitz—pre-selected a trio of titles that meet the requirements of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
“Because naming the largest unnamed world [otherwise known as (225088) 2007 OR10] in our Solar System is a big decision, we’d like you to help us,” the website said.
- Gonggong (Mandarin): A Chinese water god often depicted as having red hair and the tail of a dragon. He is seen as destructive, and is blamed for cosmic catastrophes including floods and the tilting of Earth.
- Holle (German): A German fairy tale character established as a goddess by the Brothers Grimm. She is connected to the spirit world through the magic of spinning and weaving, and is linked to the Yuletide season.
- Vili (Norse): A Nordic deity who, together with his brothers Vé and Odin, defeated frost giant Ymir and used Ymir’s body to create the universe.
Cast your vote online by 11:59 p.m. PDT on May 10 (2:59 a.m. EST on May 11).
The planetoid’s orbit—discovered in July 2007 as part of the Palomar Distant Solar System Survey—places it among 3,000-plus known Kuiper belt objects (KBOs).
Likely a mixture of ice and rock, the cosmic orb boasts large quantities of pure water ice; that reddish hue is believed to come from the irradiation of trace amounts of methane ice on its surface.
So why name the planet now, a dozen years after it was first discovered?
“We know, it’s been a long wait,” the astronomers wrote in a FAQ. “We’ve always wanted to have some kind of public involvement in naming 2007 OR10, but we also wanted to know more about the object to give it a name that fits.”
Researchers specifically selected deities linked to the color red, the theme of inside-turning-outside, or water ice/snow “to connect to the suspected past cryovolcanism coating 2007 OR10 with water ice,” they explained.
“Also, we looked for naming suggestions that have connections to other mythological creatures and deities that could be used as naming options for 2007 OR10’s moon,” the FAQ said.
Participants are allowed to vote more than once, but are urged to advocate for only two names per day, so as not to unfairly tip the scales.
Results will be announced “quickly” after voting ends, and formally submitted for the IAU to consider.
More on Geek.com: