Help name some Plutonian moons

A contest gives the public a chance to help rename two small moons orbiting Pluto, but it might help to brush up on your knowledge of the mythological Greek underworld.

A recent look at Pluto and its many moons. ESA, NASA, and Mark Showalter

Want to feel like you contributed to something important today? Take a moment to help rename two of Pluto's moons, which desperately need a little more pizzazz as they currently float around with the drab designations P4 and P5.

With assistance from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomer Mark Showalter discovered P4 and P5 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. In conjunction with the SETI Institute, Showalter today opened a Web site that allows anyone to vote from 12 Greek and Roman mythology-inspired names for the roughly 20-mile diameter moons.

The portal for renaming P4 and P5 also offers a write-in ballot for those uninterested in the current selection, but the group says any proposed names "must come from Greek or Roman mythology, and must be related to Pluto/Hades and the underworld." For those unaware, Pluto is the Roman word for Hades -- the mythological Greek god and master of the underworld. The names of the other three moons orbiting Pluto -- Charon, Nix, and Hydra -- also originate from characters in Greek mythology.

At the time of this writing, Styx and Cerberus were holding the lead with more than 12,000 votes each, but runners-up Persephone and Orpheus only trail by several thousand votes.

According to the rules, you may vote on a name once per day until the conclusion of the moon-naming contest on February 25.

It's worth noting that whatever names win the contest may not actually win, as a disclaimer says, "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."

Please tell me that doesn't mean they could end up being named P6 and P7 after all this.

 

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