Global poll opens for naming two new moons of Pluto
NEW DELHI: A worldwide poll has been launched inviting people to give names to the two moons of Pluto that were discovered in 2011 and 2012. The moons are currently called P4 and P5.
Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute, who discovered the two baby moons using Hubble space telescope's photographs, launched a portal yesterday, called Pluto Rocks, to start a worldwide poll.
Pluto has three named moons called Charon, Nix and Hydra. These existing names hold the key to the new names that may be given - they are derived from Greek or Roman mythology, and all are connected to the underworld or Hades.
Pluto himself was the king of the underworld, just as Zeus ruled heaven and Poseidon ruled the seas. Charon ferried the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron, Nix was the goddess of night and mother of Charon and Hydra was a nine-headed monster who was guardian of the underworld.
So the names of P4 and P5 will probably be taken from the underworld. The portal for the poll has 12 names for which votes can be cast online. These are: Acheron, Alecto, Cerberus, Erebus, Eurydice, Hercules, Hypnos, Lethe, Obol, Orpheus, Persephone and Styx.
Till last reports came in, Styx and Cerebrus (the three-headed dog that guards Hades) were leading with about 12,000 votes each.
A seperate form avaialable on the site also gives you an opportunity to suggest totally different names, only if you are able to justify your choice.
The winner of the poll, that closes on 25 February, will be recommended by the SETI Institute to the International Astronomical Union which gives names to astronomical bodies.
"We will take into consideration the results of the voting, but they are not binding. The discovery team, in consultation with the Nomenclature Working Groups of the International Astronomical Union, reserves the right to propose the names. Note that the International Astronomical Union has final authority over the naming of Pluto's moons," the Pluto Rocks portal says.
Showalter and his team of scientists discovered the new moons while making a detailed study of Pluto, ahead of the first ever human probe to reach Pluto in July 2015.
It is called New Horizons and is at present hurtling towards the icy Pluto. Showalter's survey was part of NASA's due diligence before New Horizon comes anywhere near Pluto. They don't want an undiscovered object crashing into the spacecraft which was launched way back in 2006.
New Horizons has traveled 3.9 billion kilometers in the past 7 years, and it has to cover another billion kms to reach the Pluto system. After observing the lonely ex-planet and its five moons, New Horizons will likely head towards the Kuiper Belt an eerie zone some 3 billion kilometers wide where debris from the Solar System's formation is whirling around.