February 11, 2013

Quick! Name Pluto's Moons Before Colbert Beats You to It!


How things have changed for good old Pluto.

I’m not talking about the Disney dog, of course, but the “dwarf planet,” as it is now known. When I was a kid (not that long ago), Pluto was indeed a planet – the “pizza” in the mnemonic “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.”

And back then it only had one moon, Charon. But the last decade has been a whirlwind for the celestial body.

First, in 2005, scientists discovered that Pluto had two other moons. Keeping with the underworld theme (Pluto is the god of the underworld in classical mythology, while Charon is the name of the ferryman of the dead), the moons were named Nix, mother of Charon; and Hydra, the multi-headed guardian of the entrance to the underworld.

Of course in 2006, Pluto was downgraded from planet to “dwarf planet,” after much deliberation by the scientific community.


Image via Shutterstock

In the past two years, however, scientists discovered that the dwarf planet had two MORE moons, and now the debate has begun as to what to call them. Right now, the moons are referred to by the ever-so-creative designations P4 and P5 (which makes me wonder if astronomers sit around playing PLUTO instead of BINGO all day…)

Apparently, though, astronomers got sick of the unimaginative (and non-thematic) designations, and have decided to give these moons formal names. And now you can have a say in this historic process, throwing in your vote for your favorite names. The choices are listed on the site, and are all in keeping with the underworld theme. They range from Styx, Acheron and Lethe, three of the rivers of the underworld; to visitors of the realm, like Hercules and Orpheus; to residents of the underworld, like Persephone and Hypnos.

Altogether, there are 12 different options to choose from. Thankfully, none of the choices are Stephen Colbert, who likes to drum up campaigns to name things, like spiders or NASA treadmills after him. I also suppose that means I can’t name the moon after my ex-girlfriend. Maybe THAT would have impressed her…




Edited by Braden Becker



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