The Mesoplanets

May 6th, 2017

Living Arts Collective

410 W Geer St.


Tickets at Eventbrite

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movement | sound | video | science

On May 6th, the creative collective Rabble & Twine presents The Mesoplanets, a multimedia dance journey to Pluto and beyond. In a series of vignettes, Rabble & Twine combine movement, video projection, sound, and text to explore the varied environments and moving myths of the outer reaches of our solar system.


Anna Seagrave
Luke Selden
Allen Anderson
Ellis Anderson
Aijia Nicole Bryant
Denver Carlstrom
Jody Cassell
Carley McCready
Lindsey Perry
Kate Seethaler


Major Planet:
Earth and The 8 planets, from Mercury to Neptune
Minor Planet:
Asteroids and other small objects
Planetary bodies with sizes smaller than Mercury but larger than Ceres

It’s been over ten years since Pluto lost its planet status. Its reclassification to mere “dwarf planet” still elicits strong reactions from children and adults alike who have grown fond of this tiny member of our solar system. What’s lost in the controversy is the host of similarly-sized “mesoplanets” that share Pluto’s cold, distant neighborhood. Rabble & Twine take their stories--mythological and scientific--as a jumping off point for their first evening-length performance, presented as part of the Durham Independent Dance Artist's 2016-2017 season

“Space is the ultimate escapism. It’s where we tell stories of gods and monsters, and dream of life on other worlds” — videographer and Rabble & Twine co-founder Luke Selden
“It’s an interesting challenge as artists to translate scientific concepts into movement. How can we relate the massive scale of space to our own human experience?” — choreographer and co-founder Anna Seagrave

Selden and Seagrave have drawn inspiration from the large-scale collaborative experiments of mid-century collectives like Fluxus and the Black Mountain College in organizing their first evening-length work. Joining them in The Mesoplanets are Allen and Ellis Anderson, Aijia Nicole Bryant, Denver Carlstrom, Jody Cassell, Carley McCready, Lindsey Perry, and Kate Seethaler, a multi-generational cast whose artistic approaches range from tap dance to improvised movement, from narrative storytelling to modular synths.


Dwarf Planet / Asteroid

2.77 AU

946 km (27% of Moon)


More hipster than Pluto

When Ceres was discovered in 1801 it was hailed as a new planet. But then more objects were discovered hanging out in Ceres' neighborhood. All of a sudden it got demoted to a mere "minor" planet (Asteroid).


The mother of all Asteroids

Ceres is tiny in the planetary scale, but it's the biggest asteroid by far - it accounts for 33% of all the mass in the asteroid belt, and the next largest asteroid is half its size. It's surface area is slightly larger than Texas. Take that lone star state!

Demeter - photograph by Ted Preuss
Demeter - Platinum Palladium Photograph by Ted Preuss

Girl, you'll be a woman soon

Speaking of mothers, Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain crops and motherly relationships. She also protects the transition of women from girlhood/unmarried to womanhood.

Her daughter is Persephone who Pluto kidnapped and took to Hades. Mother and daughter were eventually re-united, but because Persephone ate the forbidden fruit she must spend the winter in the underworld. During these months Ceres mourns, and that's why crops wither.


Moon (Neptune)

30 AU

2707 km (78% of Moon)

The Captive

Unlike the other mesoplanets Triton is a moon, not a dwarf planet. Taken by itself it could be Pluto's sibling; it's about the same size, has the same mix of rock and ice, it has an atmosphere...

In fact scientists think Triton started out on its own, like Pluto. But at some point it was captured by Neptune's gravity. The primary evidence for this is that—unlike any other moon in the Solar System—Triton orbits Neptune in the opposite direction the planet rotates.

Triton with Neptune in the background

Merman Trumpeter

In Greek mythology Triton is the merman son of Poseidon (Neptune), the god of the sea.

Triton's signature accessory is a conch shell, which he blows like a trumpet to calm or raise the seas.

Merman by Nicolas John Frith
Illustration by Nicolas John Frith


The Water King


Dwarf Planet / Binary Planet (with Charon)

39.5 AU

2374 km (68% of Moon)


Pluto has a heart

Recently the New Horizons zoomed past Pluto and revealed that Pluto has a pretty varied landscape. The giant heart-shaped feature is called "Sputnik PlanumPlanitia". It's about the size of two californias - one for each lobe. Underneath this sheet of nitrogen ice is a liquid ocean of water, salty as the Dead Sea and 62-miles deep.

In fact, this ocean is massive enough that it actually changed the center of gravity of Pluto so that its heart always faces away from Charon.


Pluto has a blue atmosphere

Pluto has a thin blue atmosphere mostly composed of methane gas. By thin, I mean about 1 Pa, which is the pressure of Earth's atmosphere right at the edge of space, 62 miles (100km) up.


The gloaming

Pluto isn't always as dark as this picture makes it out to be. High noon on Pluto would provide the equivilent sunlight of a few minutes after sunset on Earth.

NASA has a webpage dedicated to calculating the exact time to try it out based on your location.


Moon (Pluto) / Binary Planet

39.5 AU

1212 km (35% of Moon)

Pluto's biggest moon Charon could be a dwarf planet if it didn't orbit Pluto. It's a whopping half the size of Pluto*. It's larger than Ceres, and could be considered a dwarf planet in its own right if it had a different orbit.

It's so big that Pluto and Charon actually orbit around each other, forming a binary planet pair.

The Moon (Luna), by comparison, is only 25% the size of Earth.

Charon is stained with Pluto's atomosphere

The red spot on Charon is caused by Pluto's atmosphere leaking out into space and getting sucked up by Charon's gravity, to be deposited onto Charon's north pole.

image of Charon taken by New Horizons

Ferryman for the dead

Charon is the ferryman who carries the the dead across the River Styx into Hades.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Charon charges his passengers, hence the tradition of burying the dead with coins.

Old Wives Tales

deep chasms

Charon has a vast system of chasms and crevices, the result Charon's water insides freezing soon after its cataclysmic birth. Ice expands, and on a planetary scale this results in giant cracks in Charon's crust. The Argo Chasma is 430 miles long and 5 miles deep - twice the length of the Grand Canyon and almost as deep as the Marianas Trench.

The Sun

Everything revolves around the sun

The furnace


Potential Dwarf Planet

43.3 AU

1110 km (32% of Moon)


The Cherry Pit

The first dwarf planet found since Pluto, Quaoar is a small and relatively rocky object. One possible reason is that previous impacts blasted away its icy surface, like bites of a cherry revealing the hard pit.

Danced to heaven

It's named for the all-powerful god of the Tongva cult spread among the Mission Indian peoples of southern california. Our only accounts of Quaoar are from spanish missionaries, in a time of great religious upheaval with the (sometimes forcible) introduction of Christianity. This cult spread alongside the spanish's religion, possibly melding traditional religion with this new cosmology, possibly developed in opposition to it. Quaoar saved the people from his evil son, and then danced into being the heaven in stars as he rose up into the sky.


Dwarf Planet / Asteroid Family

43.1 AU

1240 km (36% of Moon)


whirling dervish

Haumea doesn't look like other dwarf planets. It's spinning fast—so fast that it's been stretched (like a spinning ball of pizza dough) into a football shape. The working theory is that long ago it experienced a catestrophic collision (imagine something the size of Alaska being hit by Pennsylvania).

Artist's depiction of Haumea
Haumea by AlexfromEarth

Hawaiian Mother

That ancient collision tossed parts of Haumea into the void, and these smaller hunks of rock and ice are called the Haumea Family.

Haumea is the Hawai'ian goddess of fertility and childbirth. It's an appropriate association - just as the dwarf planet spawned a family of smaller objects from that fateful collision, Haumea spawned her many children from various parts of her body.

Earth mother statue
"Mud Maid", The Lost Gardens of Heligan at Cornwall


Dwarf Planet

45.8 AU

1430 km (41% of Moon)


The red-headed Stepchild

"Makemake gets no respect", according to astronomer Mike Brown. It's medium-sized for a dwarf planet and it's in the middle of the Kuiper Belt. It doesn't have a crazy shape like Haumea, and it doesn't have an atmosphere like Pluto and Eris.

artist\s impression of Makemake's surface
ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (

frozen pebbles of tar

What it does have is a red, red surface. Spectral analysis hints that the surface is covered in little pebbles of methane ice up to 1cm in size (skittles?). Unlike the rusty sands of Mars, Makemake (and other red Kuiper Belt objects) get their color by having their methane ices "burnt" by unfiltered sunlight (Makemake has no ozone layer). This results in "Tholins" - complex hydrocarbons similar to tar, oil or mud. When Carl Sagan created Tholins in the lab he found that it was readily edible by soil bacteria, lending credence to the idea that live could exist outside earth.


The bird-man

Makemake is the bird-man creation diety of the Rapa Nui of Easter Island. They have a challenge each year where tribe members swim to a remote island and climb rocky cliffs to retrieve the first sooty tern egg of the season. The winner was celebrated as a sacred "bird man" for months afterwards.

Makemake is a bird god. Here's a nest
Sharon Beals

2007 OR-10

Potential Dwarf Planet

67.2 AU

1535 km (44% of Moon)


It has no name

This planet is actually third largest in the Kuiper Belt (after Pluto and Eris). It's also one of the reddest objects in the solar system. But it hasn't been given a proper name yet, allegedly because scientists didn't know enough about it. According to twitter the discoverer just "got busy with other things". After 10 years anyone gets to propose a name, So 2017 could be it's year!

It's really red

A red landscape
Daniel Zvereff


Dwarf Planet

67.7 AU

2326 km (67% of Moon)


The evil twin

Eris is the same size as Pluto, just a smidge smaller in size, but more massive (it's more rocky, Pluto's got more ice). This was the real deciding factor in changing the status of Pluto - if Pluto was a planet then so was Eris, and if Eris, why not Haumea, Makemake, and all the rest? Fittingly enough Eris is named for the primordial goddess of chaos, strife and dischord.

Chaos, Strife & Dischord

"Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife. She stirs up jealousy and envy to cause fighting and anger among men. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris, and, enraged at her exclusion, she spitefully caused a quarrel among the goddesses that led to the Trojan War. She's quite a fun goddess, really.”
Astronomer Mike Brown, member of the discovery team

Winter is coming

Eris is one of the brightest objects in the sky. Unlike the redder dwarf planets in this list, Eris reflects 97% of the light that reaches it's orbit three times farther than Pluto from the sun. This is likely due to a cycle of its atmosphere freezing and falling from the sky like snow during its centuries-long winters.

image of eris
ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (


Potential Dwarf Planet

519 AU

995 km (30% of Moon)


Distant Traveller

Kuiper Belt Objects (Pluto, eris, etc) are really far from the sun. Sedna takes the distant orbit thing and turns it up to 11. Literally. Sedna has a comet-like orbit that takes it (relatively) close to Pluto's orbit (39 AU), then swings out over 900 AU from the sun. That's out to the darkest reaches of the solar system. In fact, it's orbit is so strange that it (and other smaller objects with similar orbits) are the primary evidence for a possible Neptune-sized planet lurking out in the shadows.

Sedna orbits way outside the Kuiper Belt
Original: Scott S. Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

mermaid ruler of the arctic sea

Cold, distant Sedna is named for the Inuit goddess of the watery underworld, and ruler of the hunt. There's many variations of her myth, but they're all pretty metal.

One describes Sedna as an independant woman who rejects marriage proposals from the hunters of her village. One day a mysterious hooded figure appears and offers her father great riches for Sedna's hand. Out of hunger (or greed) her father agreeds, and roofies her.

Sedna awakes to find herself in a large nest on a cliff, for the stranger was no man, but a giant trickster bird spirit.

The wind carries Sedna's cries to her father. Wracked by guilt he attempts to save her, but as they're paddingly home the bird-spirit sees them escaping. It beats its great wings, causing a terrible storm.

Sedna's father throws her into the raging sea, hoping to appease the angry god. She clings to the kayak, but her father grabs a little axe and chops off her fingers one by one. Her fingers became whales, seals and walruses, while she sinks to the deep, transforming into a mermaid.

She now rules the watery underworld and commands the creatures of the sea.

Sedna, the Inuit Goddess
"Sedna Revisited" by Longhair

Planet 9

It might be out there


Tim Marshall - unsplash


Ice - Y. Ballester


Outside the safety of Earth's atmosphere the unfiltered light from the sun would give you a sunburn instantly. Even it the outer reaches of the solar system it's strong enough to "bake" methane and carbon dioxide into complex hydrocarbon molecules called "tholins" (greek for "mud"). This gives many mesoplanets their reddish color.

These tar, oil, or mud-like substances are the building blocks of life - in lab experiments some soil bacteria could life off of tholins alone.

Harpal Singh - unsplash


Earth's atmosphere protects and feeds life.

Pluto's atmosphere is about 1 millibar. That's as dense as Earth's atmosphere 62 miles up, at the literal "edge of space". Even so, it has clouds, and glows a faint blue.

Eris's entire atmosphere falls to the ground like snow during it's centuries-long winter.


Our solar system is large. Check out Josh Worth's excellent depiction of a scale model of the solar system, "If The Moon Were Only 1 Pixel".if the moon were only one pixel

The Unknown

The first ever underwater photograph, c. 1899.
The first ever underwater photograph, c. 1899.



frost on wheat
Natasha Vasiljeva - unsplash


  • Quaoar likely struck a body larger than itself, shearing off its icy crust and leaving its dark, rocky core exposed.

  • Haumea spins so fast its squashed into a football shape, caused by an ancient collision.

  • Earth too suffered a cataclysmic impact, 4.51 billion years ago. It bore the earth the moon, and a strong iron core to shield us from the sun.

Some moments forever change us, for better or for worse.

Motherly Relationships

Haumea bore her many children from different parts of her body, including Pele, goddess of lava.

Ceres is the goddess of motherly relationships, and guides the transition of young women into motherhood

mother and baby's hands
Liane Metzler - unsplash


The myth of Quaoar comes from a Native American cult that sprung up alongside the spread of catholic missionaries to California, a new cosmology that sought to reconcile ancient beliefs with the profound changes brought by these newcomers.

There may be life on these mesoplanets, far from our world, and existing apart from us.

The Great Moon Hoax
Moon natives, according to The Great Moon Hoax


"Despair with pomegranate taste" by Natalia Drepina


Sirens old style playing card


Lee Boyd



dim light from above
Jez Timms - unsplash


NASA Astronaut
NASA via unsplash