I honestly don’t think I am exaggerating when I say I’ve told the story of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea, over a hundred times in the seven years I have worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. We almost always have a sculpture, painting, print or some other artistic representation of Sedna on display in the gallery. A quick look through the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s online catalog reveals some fifty artworks with the word Sedna in their titles.
Sedna was an Inuit girl whose tragic story reaches its climax when Sedna’s father cuts off her fingers and they are transformed into all the creatures of the sea. Sedna becomes a sea goddess and Inuit hunters pray to her when they want to find animals to hunt.
As familiar as I am with the Sedna story I only discovered last week that there is a minor planet in the outer reaches of the solar system named after her. It was discovered by Michael Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz in 2003. Sedna is almost as red in color as Mars and has an elongated orbit of 11,400 years. Michael Brown explains they chose the planet’s name because it is the coldest planet in the solar system with an average temperature of -237.6 degrees Celsius. So it seemed appropriate to name it after Sedna who is said to live in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean. Sedna has no known moons and is about 13 billion kilometers away. There is some controversy over whether Sedna should be called a minor planet, dwarf planet or simply an astronomical object but there is no question about Sedna’s existence. That will be an interesting fact to add to my Sedna story when I tell it at the art gallery in the future.