According to Space Daily, the contest conducted by SETI to name the two as yet unnamed moons of Pluto has concluded. The clear winners are Vulcan and Cerberus. The final decision, though, will be made by the International Astronomical Union.
The two unnamed moons of Pluto
According to a story on Space.com on the five moons of Pluto, once considered the ninth planet of the Solar System and now designated as a "dwarf planet," the two unnamed moons are currently designated as "P4" and "P5." The two moons were discovered in 2011 and 2012 respectively by the Hubble Space Telescope. "P4" "P4" is thought to be between 8 and 21 miles in diameter. "P5" is thought to be 6 and 15 miles in diameter.
How Vulcan got on the ballot
Originally Vulcan was not on the approved list of Roman and Greek mythological figures on the SETI list to be voted on. However, according to a story in Universe Today, an actor named William Shatner who played Captain James T. Kirk in the science fiction series "Star Trek" suggested that "Vulcan" would be a nice name for one of the moons of Pluto. SETI, noting that Vulcan was a relative of Pluto in the Roman divine pantheon and was the god of fire and smoke, duly added the name to the approved list. The fact that it was also the name of the home planet of a certain science officer with pointed ears, green blood, and an obsession with logic was purely coincidental. Thanks to an influx of "Star Trek" fans, the name "Vulcan" shot up to the top of the polling.
Cerberus was also popular
Second in the polling was the name Cerberus, according to Space Daily. Cerberus was the gigantic three-headed hound that guarded the entrance to Hades, the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology. Its job was to prevent the shades of the dead from escaping Hades. Cerberus is said to have a serpent's tail, a mane of snakes, and lion's claws. The monster dog featured prominently in one of the 12 labors of Hercules.
What happens next
According to Space Daily, the final say for what the two unnamed moons of Pluto rests with the International Astronomical Union. This was the same body, according to Astronomy Magazine, that demoted Pluto from an actual planet to a "dwarf planet." It is a decision that remains controversial to this day.
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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- moons of Pluto