• Before it got its new name, Gonggong was the largest unnamed body in the solar system
  • Gonggong is the fifth largest dwarf planet in the solar system
  • Its new name is based on a destructive Chinese water god 
  • Its satellite is named after the monster who ministered to Gonggong

For quite a while, dwarf planet 2007 OR10 was the largest unnamed dwarf planet in our solar system. Now, 2007 OR10’s new name, Gonggong, is the first Chinese name for a major body in our solar system.

2007 OR10

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) guidelines state that all minor planets in the Kuiper belt must have names that are associated with mythological beings. For instance, Pluto, which is the largest and most popular dwarf planet, gets its name from the Roman god of the underworld while another dwarf planet, Ceres, is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Since it was discovered in 2007, the dwarf planet discovered by three American astronomers was just called 2007 OR10 or by its minor plant number 225088.

In 2019, the three who discovered the dwarf planet decided to share the honor of suggesting a name for the dwarf planet with the world and held a voting contest.

Gonggong, Holle, Vili

The three choices then were the Mandarin name “Gonggong” after a Chinese water god, the German name “Holle” after the European winter goddess of fertility, women, and rebirth, and the Nordic name “Vili” after the deity who, along with Odin and Vé, defeated the frost giant Ymir.

The names were chosen because of their relation to ice, snow and the color red, all characteristics associated with 2007 OR10. They were also chosen because they had associated deities whose names could be considered for 2007 OR10’s satellite.

After the voting ended in May of 2019, the name Gonggong got the most votes but the team had to submit it for the IAU’s Committee on Small Body Nomenclature’s consideration. There was still a chance that the name will be denied and the second option would be chosen.

Gonggong And Xianglu

Just this February, nearly a year after the name was proposed, the name Gonggong has become official and the IAU’s Minor Planet Center has updated its official catalog. Gonggong’s moon was also named Xiangliu after the minister that attended to Gonggong.

This makes Gonggong the first major body in our solar system to have a Chinese name.

According to folklore, Gonggong is a destructive water god with a copper human head and the body of a serpent. He is a destructive god and, he is blamed for various chaotic catastrophes such as flooding and tilting the Earth. Xiangliu, his minister, is a nine-headed poisonous snake monster.

Dwarf Planets
Until recently, 2007 OR10 was the largest unnamed dwarf planet in our solar system. It is now the first body in the solar system with a Chinese name. Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI