Home Columns Anantha Narayan Pluto’s big brother

Till January 20, Mike Brown was a massive hate figure. He was the badass astronomer with the Twitter handle @plutokiller who got booed for reducing our beloved Pluto into an impotent snowball. Having caused a cosmic uproar, he decided to make amends by discovering Planet Nine, with 29-year-old astrophysicist Konstanin Batygin. And what a giant discovery it’s turned out to be. Planet Nine has 10 times the mass of Earth and, despite being so huge, the big fella’s got very little gravitational influence on Earth because it’s located far away from the sun.

The thing that has everyone excited is the obvious question: “What are we gonna call it?” Brown’s 10-year-old daughter Lilah is already calling it Planet Lilah. Giv en the Godzilla-esque proportions, Brown and Batygin are informally referring to it as ‘Fatty’. But the Intern ational Astrono-mical Union is in no hurry as the planet might take at least five years to get sighted. But that hasn’t deterred anyone. Some want to call it ‘Mickey’ after Mickey Mouse. David Bowie fans want it named ‘Bowie’, but that’s a really long shot as the convention is to name space oddities after Roman or Greek mythology characters. Given this constraint, the list has narrowed down to: ‘Terminus’, the Roman god of borders; ‘Vulcan’, the Roman god of fire; ‘Bacchus’, the Roman god of agriculture and wine; ‘Nyx’, the Greek goddess of the night; ‘Ulysses’, the Greek hero of Homer’s Illiad; ‘Apollo’, the Greek god of light; and ‘Minerva’, the goddess of wisdom. There have been a few wild card entries. One smart aleck wants the name to change every year to raise megabucks from corporations. Pluto sympathisers feel it’s a sequel after all. Therefore, ‘Plutwo’ should suffice. If you ask me, I’d say, why not not ‘Bheem’? That way, future Star Trekkers could go, “Bheem me up, Scotty.”

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