Meet Gonggong, the first major body in the solar system with a Chinese name

The largest unnamed dwarf planet circling our sun finally has a name rather than just a catalog number.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

An artist's impression of the red-hued Gonggong.


Our solar system is made up of the sun, the eight known planets and the dozens of moons that circle those planets. But then there are innumerable asteroids, comets and dwarf planets wandering around. The most famous of this group is probably also the largest, Pluto. 

Not far behind Pluto, the fifth-largest dwarf planet in the solar system hasn't had a name since it was discovered in 2007. It's just been hanging out beyond Neptune under the boring catalog designation 2007 OR10. 

Well, that's officially changed as the previously largest unnamed body in the solar system is now officially Gonggong, named for a Chinese water god with the head of a human and the body of a snake.

And as a cool bonus, the tiny moon that orbits Gongong is named Xiangliu, after the minister that attended to the deity in Chinese folklore. The pair make up the first major solar system bodies to have Chinese names, according to astrophysicist Simon Porter.

The duo was discovered by a trio of astronomers who later held an online poll, asking the public for help with names. Gonggong won and was submitted to the International Astronomical Union, which handles the official directory of the cosmos. As of Wednesday, the IAU's Minor Planet Center had accepted the name and updated its catalog

Gonggong has a reddish hue and might be able to sustain some sort of stinky, methane atmosphere. 

Hopefully this celestial object doesn't take on the characteristics of its namesake, who's known for causing much suffering and destruction in the form of floods and even knocking the Earth's axis off center. Perhaps if we're lucky, the influence of Xiangliu will keep those tendencies in check. 

Here are other moons worth visiting in person

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