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Petitie: "Petition for the official naming of the dwarf planet candidate (225088) 2007 OR10 after the Dacian god Gebeleizis"

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There are two main reasons for which this petition is written in the English language: (i) it is addressed to people who don't speak the Romanian language and (ii) it is open for signing not only to Romanians, but also to anyone else. The purpose of the petition is the naming of a recently discovered trans-Neptunian object in our Solar System, one of those significant objects which future research might determine the scientific community to grant them the status of dwarf planet, in accordance with the definitions currently under use with the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Before getting to the actual topic of the petition, for all of us who grew learning the Solar System is composed out of nine planets, I think an introduction is required. A few years ago a planetary object larger and more distant then Pluto was discovered, bearing today the name of Eris. Under the older classification, Eris would have been considered the tenth planet of the Solar System. However, Eris was not a lone discovery; numerous mostly icy objects, of different dimensions, orbiting the Sun, were identified in distant regions beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune, known nowadays as the Kuiper Belt, the scattered disk, or the inner Oort Cloud. Some of them had dimensions comparable with Pluto and Eris, which determined the IAU to adopt in 2006 separate definitions for planet and dwarf planet. The main difference between the two categories is the degree in which these objects orbiting the Sun have cleared, or not, their regions of other objects. As a result of the new classification, the Solar System is perceived now as being composed out of only eight planets, from Mercury to Netune, Earth including, and a number yet to be established of dwarf planets. Pluto was therefore redefined as a dwarf planet, the second largest, and the same status was recognized for Ceres, the largest body in the Main Asteroid Belt located between Mars and Jupiter, and the very recently discovered Eris, Haumea and Makemake, in the still very much mysterious trans-Neptunian realm.

However, the number of objects which, pending on future astronomical research might be granted the dwarf planet status is significantly higher (there were as many as 70 in 2008). Some of the most important candidates already received definitive names in accordance with the IAU conventions: Sedna, Orcus, Quaoar. Others are still known under their provisional post-discovery names, such as: (84522) 2002 TC302 and the subject of this petition, (225088) 2007 OR10.

Nicknamed by its discoverers Snow White, (225088) 2007 OR10 was discovered on 17th July 2007 by Professor Michael E. Brown of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and his team, formed of M. E. Schwamb, D. L. Rabinowitz and others, using the equipments of the Palomar Observatory. In fact, Professor Michael E. Brown and his colleagues are responsible with the discovery of many trans-Neptunian objects, including the largest known dwarf planet, Eris, and its moon, Dysnomia. The current petition represents also a tribute brought to these vanguard scientists, whose work benefits to the entire humanity, and a modest attempt to help them in finding final names for the celestial objects they discover.

(225088) 2007 OR10 belongs to the same area of the Solar System as Eris, the scattered disk. Its orbit around the Sun has an aphelion located at 101.03 AU from the Sun, and a perihelion situated at 33.62 AU. The AU, Astronomical Unit, is equal to the distance between our Earth and the Sun. At this distance, it takes 552.52 years to (225088) 2007 OR10 to make a full orbit around the Sun. With a diameter estimated to be between 875 and 1400 km, (225088) 2007 OR10 could be one of the largest known dwarf planet candidates, smaller then Sedna, but larger then Orcus and Quaoar. Only the future will tell.

As we all know from the names of the planets and the moons in the Solar System, traditionally astronomers adopted for these celestial bodies names taken from the ancient Greek and Roman mythologies. Some of them are in use since the Antiquity. Nowadays, the IAU put in place several naming procedures for the newly discovered objects. In the case of trans-Neptunian larger objects, the naming procedure requires the use of mythological names of Creation deities. On the other hand, there is now a trend among the astronomers to go beyond the limits of the classical mythology, so that there are now in the Solar System objects which official names are those of Gaulic, Norse, Inuit, Hawaiian, Easter Island, Etruscan and Native American gods.

Considering this, we think it is very appropriate to take inspiration too from the mythologies of the closely related Iron Age peoples of much of the Central Europe, most of the South Eastern Europe and significant parts of present day Asian Turkey: the Thracians, the Dacians (Getae), the Illyrians, the Phrygians, the Paionians, the Moesians and the Cimmerians. Sharing a common origin and descending, just like the ancient Greeks, from the fusion between the creators of what the great pre-historian Maria Gimbutas named the Old European Civilization and the later Indo-European settlers, these peoples brought a significant contribution to the general development of the human civilization, which is yet largely to be understood, just like the exploration of the trans-Neptunian regions is only in the beginning. Nevertheless, the testimonies of the ancient authors are enough to glimpse how many things we generally take as classical Greek of Hellenistic originate in fact from this lost Thracian - Dacian - Illyrian world: the Thracian Orphism with its sophisticated theological and philosophical ideas generating the Hermetic thinking in a Hellenistic Egyptian environment; the Mysteries of Eleusis, founded by the Thracian priest Musaios; the Dacian Zalmoxism with its astoundingly modern view of the unity between the body and the mind and with its strong influence on the ideas of Pythagoras; the Mysteries of Samothrace and the Mysteries of Cybele, both coming from the Phrygian spirituality; the advanced astronomy practiced by the Dacian high priest and religious reformer Deceneus and the examples could continue. The analysis of the impact these and other contributions of the Iron Age Carpathian - Balkan “Barbarians” had over the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman civilizations and through them over the emergence of the modern civilization, might also be quite revealing, but this petition is not the appropriate place for such an attempt. Nonetheless, the point should be made: the Thracian – Dacian – Illyrian civilizations are significant enough for their related mythologies to become a source of inspiration for the astronomers of our time.

The only reason this didn’t happen yet was that most of the areas these Ancients inhabited were quite unlucky in the 20th Century. Ravished by the World Wars, this part of Europe and the direct descendants of the Thracian – Dacian – Illyrian peoples had to deal with the most oppressive and destructive totalitarianism, the Communism, and the major political, social and economical challenges it left behind. However, it is now the time for South Eastern Europeans to start making their voice herd and to truly remove the last remnants of the Iron Curtin from the mentality of the World.

Having this in mind, on 25th April 2010, at 0.49 EET, I wrote the following email to Professor Michael E. Brown, which synthesises the whole point of the current petition:

“Dear Sir,

My name is (…) and I am writing you from Bucharest, Romania. I recently became aware of your statements, a little more then one year ago, about lacking a proposal name for the dwarf planet candidate (225088) 2007 OR10 or Snow White as you unofficially nicknamed it. I suppose the situation changed since; however, not being able to find any evidence a mythological name was officially proposed to the IAU, I decided to bother you with a suggestion. Of course, if I am late or you will choose another name, I will have no hard feelings what so ever.

The name I want to suggest you would also satisfy the current tendency in naming celestial objects to take inspiration from non-Greek and Roman mythologies too. In this case my proposal comes from the Dacian mythology. Also known under the name of Getae, the Dacians were an Iron Age people closely related to the Thracians, which you might know from the Greek traditions (and the “Xena, the warrior princess” series, because the Xena character- used by Professor Brown as initial nickname of the dwarf planet Eris- was originating from Thrace), living on an area which included the entire territories of Romania, Moldova and Slovakia, half of Hungary and half of Bulgaria, as well as large parts of what is now Ukraine. They are generally regarded as the main ancestors of the Romanians, but in fact the Dacians represent an important part of the ancestry of all the nations populating nowadays this large area of Central and South Eastern Europe. Mentioned for the first time by Herodotus, the Greek “father of history”, as the only Thracian nation which attempted the open armed resistance against the mighty Persian army of Darius I, during his campaign across the Balkans and North of the Black Sea in the year 514 BC, the Dacians grew to become in the 2nd Century BC a civilization equal to the one of the Celtic Gauls (and similar in many regards). However, while the Gauls were conquered in the mid 1st Century BC by Julius Caesar, and their civilization shattered, the Dacian civilization continued to develop for another almost two centuries. In fact, compared to the Gauls, the Dacians made one major step further and reached political unity. The kingdom they founded in the 1st Century BC, stretching at some point between the Northern Carpathians in Poland and Ukraine at North, and the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria at South, between the Middle Danube, in Hungary, and the River Morava which borders today Slovakia and the Czech Republic at West, and the Black Sea and the River Bug, in Ukraine, at East, was one of the earliest European “Barbarian” empires and became the second major enemy, after the Parthic Empire, of the Roman Empire during its climax period between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan. The final victory of the emperor Trajan over the Dacian kingdom in 106 AD represented a huge achievement, still remembered by one of the best preserved ancient monuments of the City of Rome, Trajan’s Column (the one which carvings are always used in the TV science documentaries relating to the Roman war machine), and the creation of the Roman province of Dacia in a part of the Dacian homeland was the last lasting conquest of the Roman Empire. The area of the mountain capital of the Dacian kingdom, a vast complex of fortifications, temples, workshops and civilian dwellings, largely still to be explored, Sarmizegetusa (also called Regia to be distinguished from the provincial Roman capital built by the emperor Trajan some 40 kilometers away), located in the Hunedoara County of Romania, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

From the various known names of Dacian deities, the one I want to suggest you as a potential official name for (225088) 2007 OR10 belongs to the god Gebeleizis, a Creation god of the sky, master of thunders, somewhat resembling Zeus/Jupiter. According to Herodotus, the 6th and 5th Centuries BC Dacians believed that thunderstorms are battles between the supreme sky god Gebeleizis and evil dragons, hidden in the storm clouds, and therefore the warriors were shooting arrows in these clouds in an attempt to help their god to win the battles. Being a god of the sky, and therefore related to the cosmic space, Gebeleizis was, like all the others gods of the sky in the various mythologies, deeply involved in the Creation myths, a Creation he generated and for which protection he kept fighting against the forces of the Chaos, embodied by the cloud dragons. Therefore, I think the name of this mythological character is very appropriate to be granted to the yet unnamed officially dwarf planet discovered by you.

Also, if future research you and your team will make will prove that (225088) 2007 OR10 has a moon, or is a part of a binary system, such as Pluto and Charon, I would like to suggest you a potential name for the satellite. I am thinking of the goddess Bendis, probably the most important female deity adored under the same name by the Thracians and the Dacians alike. Bendis was a goddess very similar to the Greek Artemis and Roman Diana, because she was the goddess of the forests and the hunt, but there was also one major difference: Bendis was in the same time the goddess of the Moon, while the Greeks had a separate deity for the Moon, Selene. This mythological difference between Artemis/Diana and Bendis is in fact the reason for which I think Bendis is a very appropriate name for the natural satellite of another planet or dwarf planet. The name of a goddess of Earth’s Moon should fit perfect as the official name of the moon of another celestial body.

I only have to add that I hope my suggestions might be useful to you in naming these dwarf planet candidate or any other objects in our Solar System or beyond.

Respectfully yours,
(…)”

Therefore, to conclude, this petition is opened to anyone else who, like the initiator and author of these lines, thinks that Gebeleizis is a potentially apropriate name for the dwarf planet candidate (225088) 2007 OR10. It is of course the right of the discoverers, Professor Michael E. Brown and the members of his team at Caltech and the Palomar Observatory, to choose the final name of this newly discovered celestial object. But we can address them our proposal in the hope they will take it into consideration and, perhaps, a Thracian – Dacian god will fly again in our sky.

02/05/2010

Autor: Alexandru Surcel
Destinatar: Professor Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology, International Astronomical Union
Categorie: Stiinta si tehnologie.
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