According to a story by NBC News, scientists are soliciting the public for suggestions for names of the two unnamed known moons of Pluto, currently designated as P4 and P5, through the Pluto Rocks website.
Moons of Pluto
According to Space.com, there are five known moons of Pluto, the formerly ninth planet of the solar system and now designated as a dwarf planet.
Charon was discovered in 1978 and measuring about 648 miles in diameter. Indeed, Charon is so large that Pluto/Charon is sometimes referred to as a "double dwarf planet" system. Pluto is 1,430 miles in diameter. Charon is 12,200 miles away from Pluto. It is named after the Ancient Greek ferryman who took the dead to the afterlife.
Nix and Hydra were discovered in 2004 by the Hubble Space Telescope. They are smaller, between 31 to 62 miles in diameter, and farther away from Pluto than Charon
P4 was discovered by the Hubble in 2011. It is thought to be 8 to 21 miles in diameter,
P5 was discovered by the Hubble in 2012, is irregular in shape, and about 6 to 15 miles in diameter.
Naming P4 and P5
Pluto Rocks lists a number of suggested names for the public to vote on, all of them derived from classical mythology. These are Acheron, Alecto, Cerberus, Erebus, Eurydice, Heracles, Hypnos, Lethe, Obol, Orpheus, Persephone, and Styx. While there is a form to fill out to suggest other names, according to NBC News, the purveyors of Pluto Rocks are keen not to repeat the experience when Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert mounted a media campaign to name a space station module after him. Eventually the module was named Destiny, and Colbert, a space enthusiast, had a treadmill on the International Space Station named after him.
Voting ends at noon EST on Feb. 25.
Pluto, formerly known as a planet and recently demoted to the status of dwarf planet, is to be visited by a space probe launched by NASA known as New Horizons The probe was launched in 2006 and is due to fly by Pluto and its moons in July 2015 before going on to the Kuiper Belt. Mark Showalter, an astronomer at the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, is quoted by NBC News as suggesting that P4 and P5 are likely not the last moons of Pluto that will be discovered, especially as New Horizons draws closer to the former ninth planet of the solar system.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
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