provisionally designated 2003 VB12) was discovered by
Michael Brown (
Chad Trujillo (
Gemini Observatory), and
David Rabinowitz (
Yale University) on 14 November 2003. The discovery formed part of a survey begun in 2001 with the
Samuel Oschin telescope at
Palomar Observatory near
California using Yale's 160-megapixel
Palomar Quest camera. On that day, an object was observed to move by 4.6
arcseconds over 3.1 hours relative to stars, which indicated that its distance was about 100 AU. Follow-up observations in November–December 2003 with the SMARTS telescope at
Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in
Chile as well as with the Tenagra IV telescope at the
Keck Observatory on
Mauna Kea in Hawaii revealed that the object was moving along a distant highly
eccentric orbit. Later, the object was
precovered on older images made by the Samuel Oschin telescope as well as on images from the
Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking consortium. These previous positions expanded its known orbital arc and allowed a more precise calculation of its orbit.
Brown initially nicknamed Sedna "
The Flying Dutchman", or "Dutch", after a legendary
ghost ship, because its slow movement had initially masked its presence from his team.
 For an official name for the object, Brown settled on "Sedna," a name from Inuit mythology, which Brown chose partly because the Inuit were the closest polar culture to his home in Pasadena, and partly because the name, unlike
Quaoar, would be easily pronounceable.
 On his website, he wrote, "Our newly discovered object is the coldest, most distant place known in the Solar System, so we feel it is appropriate to name it in honor of
Inuit goddess of the sea, who is thought to live at the bottom of the frigid
 Brown also suggested to the
International Astronomical Union's (IAU) Minor Planet Center that any future objects discovered in Sedna's orbital region should also be named after entities in arctic mythologies.
 The team made the name "Sedna" public before the object had been officially numbered.
Brian Marsden, the head of the Minor Planet Center, said that such an action was a violation of protocol, and that some members of the IAU might vote against it.
 No objection was raised to the name, and no competing names were suggested. The IAU's
Committee on Small Body Nomenclature accepted the name in September 2004,
 and also considered that, in similar cases of extraordinary interest, it might in the future allow names to be announced before they were officially numbered.