[meteorite-list] Pluto's Smallest Moons Receive Official Names: Kerberos & Styx
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2013 17:44:50 -0700 (PDT)
Kerberos and Styx: Welcome to the Pluto System!
Pluto's Smallest Moons Receive Official Names
July 2, 2013
The names of Pluto's two smallest known moons, previously referred to as
"P4" and "P5," have been formally approved by the International
Astronomical Union (IAU). P4 has been named Kerberos, after the
three-headed dog of Greek mythology. P5 has been named Styx, after the
mythological river that separates the world of the living from the realm
of the dead. They join Pluto's previously known moons Charon, Nix and
Hydra. According to IAU rules, Pluto's moons are named for characters
associated with the Underworld of Greek and Roman mythology.
Mark Showalter, senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in
Mountain View, Calif., led the team of astronomers that discovered
Kerberos and Styx. Both were first seen in lengthy exposures of the
Pluto system obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. Kerberos was
discovered in 2011 and Styx in 2012. The images were obtained in support
of NASA's New Horizons mission, which will fly past Pluto in July 2015.
The names were selected based on the results of an unprecedented
Internet vote that was held during February 2012. The ballot at
plutorocks.seti.org received almost 500,000 votes, including 30,000
write-in suggestions. "I was overwhelmed by the public response to the
naming campaign," says Showalter, adding that the website received
international attention and half the votes came from outside the U.S.
Kerberos is the Greek form of the name Cerberus, which ranked second in
the voting. Styx ranked third. The top vote-getter was "Vulcan," based
on a suggestion from actor William Shatner of TV's "Star Trek" fame.
Vulcan was the name of the home planet of Star Trek character Mr. Spock.
The IAU gave serious consideration to this name, which happens to be
shared by the Roman god of volcanoes. However, because the name has
already been used in astronomy, and because the Roman god is not closely
associated with Pluto, this proposal was rejected. "I am grateful to the
IAU for giving such careful consideration to our suggestions," says
New Horizons will provide up-close looks at Kerberos, Styx and their
companion moons in 2015, when it becomes the first spacecraft to fly
through the Pluto system. "The discoveries of Kerberos and Styx add to
the mysteries surrounding the formation of the Pluto system," says New
Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research
During the flyby, the spacecraft will also search for additional moons,
which might be too small for the Hubble telescope to detect. Afterward,
New Horizons will go on to explore the more distant Kuiper Belt.
Watch the Google+ Hangout on the name announcement.
Received on Tue 02 Jul 2013 08:44:50 PM PDT