Changing Planet

Your Chance to Name Pluto’s New Moons

Even though Pluto may have been officially kicked out of the major planet club, the number of moons orbiting the dwarf planet has increased by two in just the last couple of years.  And now astronomers need your help in naming these newly discovered moons.

The naming contest for two of the tiniest satellites, measuring only 15 and 20 miles (20 and 30 km), was launched this week by the discoverers. They spotted the cosmic pair while using the Hubble space telescope to map the space around Pluto in preparation for New Horizon spacecraft’s flyby in 2015. 

The unnamed worldlets- now only known as P4 and P5- are joining the little family of moons that include Charon, Hydra and Nix.  Sitting at the dark and frigid outer reaches of the solar system, all members of this system have names related to the ancient Greek mythological god of the underworld, Hades; which the ancient Romans called Pluto. Charon, the largest moon represents the ferryman of Pluto, while Hydra is a nightmarish monster, and Nix is an evil goddess.

“The Greeks were great storytellers and they have given us a colorful cast of characters to work with,” said Mark Showalter, Senior Research Scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California in a statement.

Because astronomers like to have things categorized and in order, other planetary moon systems also are named by a set of rules. For example the moons of Jupiter are named after the love interests of the Jovian god while those circling Uranus get their names from classical English literature.

Online voting will last two weeks, ending Feb. 25 after which the top suggestions will be handed over to the International Astronomical Union – the governing body that officially names celestial objects.

Twelve choices based on this underworld mythology are already available online at . http://www.plutorocks.com. As of Thursday morning two appear tied for first place – Cerebus and Styx with Persephone coming in a strong second.  However if none of the ones on the current list catch your fancy, then Showalter and his team are open to alternative suggestion.

And that’s exactly how the current third place holder, Vulcan, got on the list – thanks to the suggestion of William Shatner aka Captain James T. Kirk of the Star Trek TV and movie fame. The fictional home planet of Mr. Spock just happens to be not only the god of molten lava in Roman myths, but also appropriately enough the nephew of Pluto.

Fascinating!

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Zak Martin

    P4 Nico son of Pluto
    P5 Hazel daughter of Pluto

  • Zak Martin

    P4 Nico son of Pluto
    P5 Hazel daughter of Pluto

  • Ellen Curran

    How about
    Spot
    Fido

  • Ellen Curran

    How about
    Spot
    Fido

  • Michele Stanmar

    Mickey and Minnie ( what better names than That)

  • Michele Stanmar

    Mickey and Minnie ( what better names than That)

  • RJ

    Goofy and Scuby Doo…………….

  • RJ

    Goofy and Scuby Doo…………….

  • zap

    gethin and drone

  • zap

    gethin and drone

  • Rich2506

    Erm, Cerberus was the three-headed dog of Greek and Roman mythology. Cerebus was the aardvark whose comic-book series ran from 1977 to 2004.
    http://www.cerebustheaardvark.com/

  • Rich2506

    Erm, Cerberus was the three-headed dog of Greek and Roman mythology. Cerebus was the aardvark whose comic-book series ran from 1977 to 2004.
    http://www.cerebustheaardvark.com/

  • Chris Schultz

    the name has to relate to the gods of the underworld. i say BUBO the golden owl forged by VULCAN. BUBO!

  • Chris Schultz

    the name has to relate to the gods of the underworld. i say BUBO the golden owl forged by VULCAN. BUBO!

  • Chris Schultz

    Bubo…the golden owl forged by vulcan. and OBOL the coin used used to pay charon, the ferryman of the river styx. BUBO & OBOL.

  • Chris Schultz

    Bubo…the golden owl forged by vulcan. and OBOL the coin used used to pay charon, the ferryman of the river styx. BUBO & OBOL.

  • Cat

    Dudes, according to Wikipedia, you’ve spelled Nix wrong: It’s Nyx. She isn’t evil, but the goddess of night. Which is highly appropriate.

  • Cat

    Dudes, according to Wikipedia, you’ve spelled Nix wrong: It’s Nyx. She isn’t evil, but the goddess of night. Which is highly appropriate.

  • TV

    Hypnus & Nyx. Following the Greek gods names is kind of interesting

  • TV

    Hypnus & Nyx. Following the Greek gods names is kind of interesting

  • fav

    I think we should name them
    1)Arceus
    &
    2)Cloyster
    or
    Dialga

  • fav

    I think we should name them
    1)Arceus
    &
    2)Cloyster
    or
    Dialga

  • Spock

    It’s awesome.

  • Spock

    It’s awesome.

  • Sirens & Ethos

    P5: Sirens
    P4: Ethos

  • Sirens & Ethos

    P5: Sirens
    P4: Ethos

  • Andrew Davis

    Calabos and Persephone

  • Andrew Davis

    Calabos and Persephone

  • Ramkrishna Debnath

    Bethesda & Porshia.

  • Ramkrishna Debnath

    Bethesda & Porshia.

  • Annette

    Lunaplu I
    Lunaplu II

  • Annette

    Lunaplu I
    Lunaplu II

  • Ralf Steiert

    Max + Moritz

  • Ralf Steiert

    Max + Moritz

  • Lois Gardner

    along Michele’s theme, if the names are not copyrighted by Disney, Minnie and Daisy !! both pretty small…

  • Lois Gardner

    along Michele’s theme, if the names are not copyrighted by Disney, Minnie and Daisy !! both pretty small…

  • mary savoy

    I think mickey and minnie becuse of the name pluto being his dog
    mary savoy

  • mary savoy

    I think mickey and minnie becuse of the name pluto being his dog
    mary savoy

  • fletcher

    i would name 1 steven

  • fletcher

    i would name 1 steven

  • Fall of a Thousand Suns

    Minnie Mouse Jr.

  • Fall of a Thousand Suns

    Minnie Mouse Jr.

  • Stephen

    Triseth

  • Stephen

    Triseth

  • Stephen

    ill name it Girecto

  • Stephen

    ill name it Girecto

  • Torres

    I would name it: NICOMEDES

  • Torres

    I would name it: NICOMEDES

  • sarah

    venetia and burney. after the lady who named pluto.

  • sarah

    venetia and burney. after the lady who named pluto.

  • Tiffany

    Jinn .. my character in a film I wrote/produced shes a bad ass! and Jada My cousins daughter (he was killed in the middle east )

  • Tiffany

    Jinn .. my character in a film I wrote/produced shes a bad ass! and Jada My cousins daughter (he was killed in the middle east )

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media