A new planet? The 24 May 2001 issue of Nature reports that astronomers have discovered a large object in the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy objects orbiting the sun out there around Pluto. The new body has been called Varuna, and since it is the third brightest object in the belt, after Pluto and its moon Charon, one might call it a planet. More study of its size and orbit are required before it can be titled "the tenth planet".

Varuna is an extrodinarily bad name for this newly discovered body. As Webster 1913 says below, Varuna is the Hindu sea god. While the kneejerk multinationalism was a nice gesture, the namers should have consulted an Indian person. They might have learned, not surprisingly, that the planet we westerners call Neptune is called Varuna in India! Duh.

Va*ru"na (?), n. [Skr. Varua.] Hindoo Myth.

The god of the waters; the Indian Neptune. He is regarded as regent of the west, and lord of punishment, and is represented as riding on a sea monster, holding in his hand a snaky cord or noose with which to bind offenders, under water.


© Webster 1913.

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