Pluto's most recently discovered moons could be named Vulcan and Cerberus —which received the most votes in a contest that closed Monday, Feb. 25 — but there's no guarantee, an NBC News post says.
The moons' discovery teams, led by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in California, have naming rights for the two moons, and the team originally announced Monday, Feb. 11, that it had opened a contest for public voting on the names. Voters were asked to choose between 12 proposed names based on Greek and Roman mythology related to ancient tales about Hades and the Underworld, as Pluto, and its three previously-discovered moons — Charon, Nix and Hydra — have traditionally been named in this manner.
But after William Shatner, the actor who played Captain James T. Kirk in the original "Star Trek" series, nominated the name Vulcan, it jumped into the lead and came out on top with 174,062 of the 450,324 votes cast, followed by the name Cerberus. Vulcan was the fictional home planet of Mr. Spock. In Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of fire and Pluto's nephew.
Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the gates to the underworld, preventing the dead from escaping.
Showalter told NBC News that Shatner's endorsement definitely skewed the results, but he's "come up with a pretty good case" for the name.
According to the NBC News report, all the members from each of the teams will have to agree on the names to be submitted to the International Astronomical Union for approval. And even then, the IAU could voice concerns about the submitted names, leading to alternate suggestions.
"Please be patient now," a post on the website Pluto Rocks reads. "It could take 1-2 months for the final names of P4 and P5 to be selected and approved. Stay tuned."
What do you think about the names Vulcan and Cerberus for Pluto's most recently discovered moons, thus far referred to as P4 and P5?
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