The International Astronomical Union is a catty bunch. First they stripped Pluto of its planetary status, and then they reconsidered, and then demoted it again to the level of "dwarf planet"--for real this time. It's still controversial.
Now the IAU has made another potentially controversial move: it renamed "Xena."
On Wednesday, a release from the IAU addressed the problem of naming another "dwarf planet," the larger-than-Pluto object which thus far was formally named 2003 UB313. The release officially named the object Eris after the Greek goddess of discord. Unfortunately, this could turn out to be yet another unpopular decision on the part of the IAU. According to plenty of outer-space enthusiasts, Eris used to go by a much cooler name.
You see, the team of astronomers that discovered UB313 quickly dubbed it "Xena" after the title character from the television show "Xena: Warrior Princess"--the name is derived from the fact that, at the time, UB313 was considered a potential "tenth planet," and hypotheses about tenth planets have long been known as "Planet X" theories after the Roman-numeral form of the number 10.) Astronomy fans and bloggers seemed to love the nickname, and UB313's satellite (discovered in 2005) was consequently nicknamed "Gabrielle" after the TV character's sidekick.
But now "Xena" is no more, and it won't take too long to see what the blogosphere thinks of the "Eris" renaming. "Gabrielle," too, has been snubbed in favor of "Dysnomia," which is the name of Eris' daughter in Greek mythology.
On one hand, bloggers and other enthusiasts don't seem to like it too much when authorities take away the unofficial terms and standards they've adopted and replace them with "real" ones: consider it the opposite of the "Snakes on a Plane" effect. But on the other hand, wasn't some spelling variation of "Eris" the name of the good guys' planet on that '80s giant-robot cartoon classic, "Voltron: Defender of the Universe?" It could catch on.