Plea to keep the universe Greek
September 02, 2006
GREEK astronomers had appealed to the world's top astronomical body to maintain a tradition of naming planets after Greek mythological figures, the Athens Observatory said today.
The Greeks were riled when a new planet-sized object discovered in 2003 was unofficially called Xena in homage to the main character of the American fantasy television series Xena: Warrior Princess.
"This provisional name ... is at the origin of this initiative taken by the observatory," the institute's astronomy department director Christos Goudis said.
Observatory chairman Christos Zerefos wrote a letter to the International Astronomical Union on August 20 proposing the names of a number of Greek mythological figures to replace Xena, Mr Goudis said.
"The last five years have seen a new interpretation of the solar system and we have to avoid giving off-hand names to newly-discovered stars," Mr Goudis said.
"Astronomy has deep roots ... we must preserve this historic tradition," he said.
A team led by US astronomer Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology discovered Xena, a frozen object some 15 billion km from Earth, in 2003.
A fan of the popular television series, Mr Brown has nine years to think of a permanent name for the orb, originally designated as 2003 UB313.