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Makemake Makes The Map

How disorieting was it when, two years ago, Pluto was demoted to "dwarf planet"? The revoking of its planethood had us bracing ourselves for them to take away the letter Q, or eliminate "fa" from the musical note scale. It was like everything we knew to be true about the universe was turned upside down...




How disorieting was it when, two years ago, Pluto was demoted to "dwarf planet"? The revoking of its planethood had us bracing ourselves for them to take away the letter Q, or eliminate "fa" from the musical note scale. It was like everything we knew to be true about the universe was turned upside down. Suddenly there are only eight planets in our nine-planet solar system?! All those laminated educational place mats and giant pull-down chalkboard maps rendered obsolete?! And what of our mnemonic devices? "My very elegant mother just served us nine pizzas" must become "My very elegant mother just served us... nothing."

And now, just as we thought we had adjusted, astronomers are remapping space geography yet again. Or, at least, naming new stuff in our solar system.

The Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU) is bestowing an object in the Kuiper Belt with the name of Makemake (pronouced Maki-maki), the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) creator of humanity and the god of fertility. Apparently, space-object-naming tradition dictates that things discovered beyond the orbit of Neptune must be named after figures in creation mythology. We guess Makemake is acceptable... it's a step up from "Easterbunny," by which this dwarf planet was informally known since its Easter-time discovery three years ago.





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