In case you hadn't noticed, there's been a lot of chaos in the outer solar system — not because distant objects are careening out of control, but rather because astronomers are struggling as they come to grips with how to characterize them.Lost in the din over finding large, distant Eris and the subsequent debate over Pluto's planethood was the 2005 discovery of a Kuiper Belt object initially designated 2005 FY9 and later numbered as 136472. Quite bright (magnitude 16.7) despite its distance, 2005 FY9 turns out to be the third largest trans-Neptunian object (after Eris and Pluto); its diameter is roughly 950 miles (1,500 km). Curiously, 136472 is the only big Kuiper Belt object lacking a satellite.
These temporary designations can be so confusing. And then there's the nickname "Easterbunny," coined by the discoverers (Michael Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowitz) because they'd found 2005 FY9 on March 31st, near Easter.
Finally, we can all start using this iceball's final, permanent, official name. On July 14th, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that it'll be called Makemake (pronounced MAH-keh MAH-keh). The International Astronomical union followed up with a press release on July 17th.
Objects in the Kuiper Belt are named for creation deities, and the god Makemake is the creator of humanity and the god of fertility for inhabitants of the Pacific island Rapa Nui. Most of us know this place as Easter Island — and the link to Easterbunny isn't a total coincidence. Mike Brown describes how his team and the International Astronomical Union came to agreement on Makemake in his online blog.
Now only one Kuiper Belt "giant," 2003 EL61, lacks a permanent name. It's big (1,200 miles long), has two moons, and has been numbered by the IAU (136108). But it might not get a name anytime soon — because there's disagreement about who discovered it.