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goddess of discord

(pronounced   EE-ris)

Eris, artist's impression
Artist's impression of Eris and the Sun

The solar system's newest planet, formerly known as 2003 UB313 or Xena, now has an official name, Eris, and the name is pronounced EE-ris. Named after the goddess of discord, Eris held true to her name, creating such controversy about her planetary presence that the veteran planet Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status by astronomers as they grappled with naming the new planet.

Breathless scientists announced her discovery as the Solar System's 10th planet on July 29, 2005, and promptly nicknamed it Xena, after the warrior princess from TV series of the same name. Mercury was retrograde at that time, so you just knew something would get snarled up and it did.

While the name, Xena, captured the media's fascination, it was only intended to be an interim nickname according to Michael Brown (no relation to your humble webmaster), a member of the team that made the discovery using telescopes at the Palomar Observatory, outside San Diego, California. The team has discovered several new planets in recent years, including Quaoar, Sedna, and Orcus. Eris was originally identified on October 31, 2003, but the announcement was held back for almost two years while astronomers did further studies.

However, the name, Xena, was not to last. The stuffed shirts and grand poo-bahs of the astronomical establishment won. They did much feather fluffing about Eris being larger than Pluto, and by August, 2006, had demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status and confined Eris to the same category.

Eris discovery images
Eris discovery image

Scientists have learned much about Eris already. While research released in Feb., 2006, suggested Eris might be as large as 3,000 kilometers in diameter, or a third bigger than Pluto, research from the Hubble telescope released in April, 2006, showed Eris has a diameter closer to 2,400 kilometers, about five percent bigger than Pluto.

What the Hubble research showed which was unexpected was that Eris reflects as much as 86% of the light it receives from the Sun. This is a very high percentage, about what one might expect a snowball on Earth to reflect, so astronomers are scratching their heads trying to figure out what's going on. Be assured the scientific types will be spending a lot of time on this, and we'll be hearing more as time goes by.

The basics, however, have been pinned down. Eris has a highly elliptical 560-year orbit around the Sun, which places it three times as far away from the Sun as Pluto and about 100 times as far away from the Sun as Earth. It is so far away that someone standing on Eris would see the Sun as about the same size as any other star.

The surface temperature is close to absolute zero, which is about -459ºF or -273ºC.   Spectroscopic analysis of the planet reveals methane ice, an unusual feature because such ice indicates a primitive surface which has not been heated significantly since the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago.

The planet's discoverers say that if the planet had ever gotten close to the Sun, all the methance ice would have boiled off right away. The only other plantary bodies in our solar system which have been measured with methane ice are Pluto and Neptune's moon Triton.

Eris also has a moon now named Dysnomia after the the daughter of Eris. Dysnomia is known as the spirit of lawlessness. This moon is about 250 kilometers in diameter and reflects only about 1 percent of the sunlight that reaches it.

The release of ephemerides for Eris marks the beginning of the fun for astrologers. The teaching in western astrology, the only astrological system in the world which accepts new planets, is that when a new planet is discovered and named, the archetype of that planet is available to everyone on Earth. The name of the planet counts, so does the planet's mythology and the story of the planet.

Because of this planet's slow orbit, everyone alive today has Eris in either Pisces or Aries. Thus the house placement rather than sign placement in the natal astrological chart will be the significant factor in determining Eris's meaning.

New Planet Forum. This is the moderated bulletin board forum where you can post your thoughts, views, observations and opinions, etc about Eris and the other new planets. Most importantly, please post your experiences with this new planet. It's only with these public exchanges that we'll get a handle on what these new planets really mean. Sure I've tossed out my ideas all over this website, but you likely will have insights I've missed. Ephemeris.  Free ephemerides for Eris are now available from this website. They range from a daily ephemeris for the current three centuries to an annual ephemeris covering 1,500 years. See for yourself what Eris has been up to in your life and historically. Click here to select the ephemeris you would like to download.

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