Vulcan And Cerberus - Most Popular Names For Pluto's Moons

27 February, 2013

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Follow us: - When the public was asked to name Pluto's fourth and fifth moons, currently known as currently known as P4 and P5 the response was overwhelming.

SETI announced a couple of weeks ago, the institute wanted to get the public involved in giving the two mini-moons permanent names and the contest "Pluto Rocks: Help Us Name the Smallest Moons of Pluto" was launched.

After receiving nearly half a million votes, two winners were selected. "We have been overwhelmed by the world's response," says Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, who led the discovery of P4 and P5.

Pluto and its five moons photographed on July 7, 2012 by the Hubble Space Telescope Image credit: NASA/ESA

The moons "P4" and "P5" were discovered in 2011 and 2012 with the Hubble Space telescope.

Both moons are small, only -21 miles across.

The team asked the public to vote on 12 potential names, including Cerberus.

But they also accepted write-in votes as long as they were taken from Greek and Roman mythology and related to Hades and the underworld, keeping to the theme used to name Pluto's three other moons.

Vulcan was the most popular name receiving 175,000 votes.

The name was originally suggested by Star Trek actor William Shatner, in honor of a planet from the show.

It just about fits the criteria: in Roman mythology, Vulcan, the god of lava and smoke, is Pluto's nephew. Any Star Trek fan will know that Vulcan is the homeplanet Mister Spock and Tuvok.

Vulcan was the most popular name among the public.

"Any connection to the Star Trek TV series is purely coincidental," Showalter said at the time. The public has demonstrated that Star Trek is still very much alive!

Cerberus, the mythical multiheaded hound that guards the gates of hell polled second, with nearly 100,000 votes.

The names are far from official yet. Now, Showalter and the team will present the names to the International Astronomical Union, which has final approval.

If the IAU decides to reject either name, it won't be the first time it has gone against public opinion on Pluto. Back in 2006 there were mass demonstrations following the union's decision to demote it to dwarf-planet status.

Hopefully this will not happen this time.

"Please be patient now," says Showalter. "It could take one to two months for the final names of P4 and P5 to be selected and approved. Stay tuned."

See also:
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