Leading article: Space balls

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The Independent Online

It was almost the cause of a celestial bun fight, as rival astronomers competed to be the first to announce the sighting. But Dr Brown won by virtue of having photographed the planet two whole years ago.

Notwithstanding the human solipsism of "discovering" something that has been there long before the likes of us appeared on Earth, this is clearly a significant achievement and we congratulate Dr Brown. We are sure that publishers of science textbooks everywhere will heartily agree.

The next pressing task is to settle upon a name for this distant, freezing ball of ice and rock. All the other planets seem to be named after Roman gods: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Neptune etc. But Dr Brown believes the new planet ought to be named Xena, after television's high kicking warrior princess. It's an intriguing idea. But could naming celestial bodies after fictional TV characters create a nasty precedent? Planet Homer anyone? Who could take space exploration seriously again after that?

Perhaps, all things considered, it would be safer if the new planet were to retain its present snappy moniker of 2003 UB313.

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