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Two of Pluto’s Moons Named After Public Vote

ByTeal BurrellNOVA NextNOVA Next

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Nadia Drake, writing for Wired:

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Formerly known as P4 and P5, Pluto’s tiniest moons now have official names: Kerberos and Styx.

The names were among the top three selected by voters during a two-week polling period; they have just been approved by the International Astronomical Union’s official nomenclature committee.

Thus, from this day forward, the two tiniest of rocks orbiting the overgrown-snowball-formerly-known-as-a-planet will conjure the tales of a three-headed dog guarding the gates of the underworld (Kerberos), and the river that doomed souls must cross (Styx).

The votes didn’t come without celebrity endorsements. In February, when voting began, William Shatner suggested Vulcan as one of the names. Vulcan won handily, with over 170,000 votes. Second place went to Cerberus with more than 99,000 votes.

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered five moons orbiting Pluto. The latest, previously known as P4 and P5, were named Kerberos and Styx, respectively.

But the process wasn’t entirely democratic. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has to approve the names and took issue with Vulcan, saying too many other objects had that name. Second place Cerberus, which is also the name of an asteroid, was rejected, too. Mark Showater, who discovered P4 and P5, suggested the Greek spelling of Cerberus, Kerberos, an alternative which the committee found more palatable. Third place, Styx, took the remaining spot.