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Dang, the rules for naming Jupiter's new moons are super strict

Your dreams of Moony McMoonFace are already dashed.


Jupiter as seen by Hubble.

Space Telescope Science Institute

Polyphonte, this may be your time to shine.

The Carnegie Institution for Science put out a call Thursday asking for the public's help naming some recently discovered moons found orbiting Jupiter. But don't get carried away. There are rules. 

Carnegie announced the 12 moons in mid-2018, and we get a say in draping monikers on five of them. 

Some of the ground rules are pretty straightforward: 16 characters or less, nothing offensive, nothing too similar to existing moon or asteroid names. You also can't name them after a living person.

Now the tunnel starts to narrow. The moons must be named after characters in Roman or Greek mythology who were either descendants of or lovers of Jupiter (Roman) or Zeus (Greek).  

OK, maybe we can still work with that, even though that rules out calling any of them Elon, Moony McMoonFace or Buzz. 

But wait. There's more. Each individual moon has more specific needs. Three of the moons are retrograde (they orbit in an opposite direction to Jupiter's rotation) and must have names ending in "e," while the other two must end in "a."

Carnegie wants the public to offers suggestions on Twitter by tweeting to @JupiterLunacy with the hashtag #NameJupitersMoons.

Some of the suggestions so far don't fit the brief, but one viable idea comes from Carnegie Science itself: Pheraea, one of Zeus' lovers. I was ready to suggest Persephone, but there's already an asteroid with that name.

While the rules seem strict, there are some good reasons for them. The International Astronomical Union, which governs the names of space objects, already has a stringent list of requirements. The moon rules will also keep the new names on theme for Jupiter. 

Jupiter has 79 known moons, including famous satellites Europa and Io and the likes of Adrastea (Zeus's foster mom) and Callisto (one of Zeus's lovers).     

We're lucky there are so many characters in Roman and Greek mythology. As it turns out, sometimes a good name is hard to find.