Humanity, as a species, loves to explore, to discover, and to name, from as far back as the mythical garden of Eden. This is the intractable itch in the brain of humanity. There is much still that's yet undiscovered; there are very few places that we have tried to leave purposefully unexplored; there are very, very few things (are there any?) left purposefully unnamed. I can think of very little that can be thought of as having been actively undiscovered, or undeclared. One of these is, or was, a planet.
On Jan. 5, 2005, astronomers at the Palomar Observatory discovered a large astral body, more massive than Pluto, in orbit around the sun far beyond Neptune. They named it Eris. Following this discovery, astronomers and politicians the world over fought to try and exclude this new planet from the official ranks of Planets of the Solar System. To do so, the International Astronomical Union, for the first time in history, defined the word "planet." Planets orbit the Sun, are massive enough for their own gravity to make them round, and have "cleared the neighbourhood" of smaller objects around their orbit. This new ruling, which applies only to bodies in our solar system, excluded both Eris and Pluto. After a 20-month period of being known as a planet, Eris was officially unrecognized in August 2006. The official solar system once again had eight strong individuals, as it did before the discovery of Pluto in 1930.
Why all the ruckus? In part the fight over Eris had to do with just how many astral bodies there really are in our solar system — there are much, much more than 10 rocks, ice balls, and fusing gas bodies of various sizes circling the Sun, and if we start calling them all planets, then our conception of the solar system, its ability to be understood by us, and its use as a system of metaphors all goes out the window. Debate over whether Pluto should be considered a planet had begun as early as 1992, with the discovery of the Kuiper belt, a particularly populous ring of trash, in which Pluto was just a rather large chunk. Eris was the last straw.
An analogy could be made to streets in your neighborhood. Picture being a little kid — you know the names of the streets in your neighborhood. But in addition to streets, there are alleys, pathways, cut-throughs, and places you simply like to walk. Many of these have names or informal designations. But a child's ability to discover and invent is unbounded; if you started putting every pathway on a city map you'd never stop drawing new lines. So it is with the planets. You should know who the big boys are up there, and it may be helpful to know some of the smaller characters, but only if you're cruising through. This is also why the language of astrology has yet to incorporate trans-Neptunian objects, the Oort cloud, denizens of the Kuiper belt, and rogue satellites — that is a semantic territory of use to explorers only, to be used but not published.
Our conception of the solar system, its ability to be understood by us, and its use as a system of metaphors all goes out the window.
Eris was named well after the debate had begun, and was named appropriately, after the Greek goddess of troublemaking. In mythology, Eris rolled a golden apple into a party of gods and caused a massive fight — the apple was labeled "for the prettiest one." Our golden apple was not inscribed directly, but the numerological significance of a 10th official planet in our pantheon can't be overlooked — 10 implies completeness, mastery, and a new beginning at a new level. This is a flattering and limiting status, one we were right to deny ourselves for the moment.
It's 2017 AD on planet Earth. There are eight planets in our solar system and a massive amount of other cool miscellaneous shit that exists in a cloud of possibility. Astronomers at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan think they have discovered a planet far beyond Pluto, 10 times the mass of the Earth. Peace and blessings to the unnamed planet.
Birthdays on Jan. 5 include Surrealist painter Yves Tanguy, Nixon's astrologer, Jeane Dixon, filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, dancer Alvin Ailey, actress Diane Keaton, and singer Marilyn Manson. Al-Mu'tasim died on this day in 842 — he was the eighth Abbasid caliph, was victorious in eight battles, fathered eight sons and eight daughters, and ruled for a period of eight years, eight moons, and eight days.
The best days this week to cut hair, if you want it to grow nice and healthy, are the 2nd, the 3rd, the 6th, and the 7th.