CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) - Want to name Pluto's two tiniest moons? Then you'll need to dig deep into mythology.
Astronomers announced a contest Monday to name the two itty-bitty moons of Pluto discovered over the past two years.
is the Roman equivalent of the Greek's Hades, lord of the underworld,
and its three bigger moons have related mythological names: Charon, the
ferryman of Hades; Nix for the night goddess; and the multi-headed
The two unnamed moons - no more than 15 to 20 miles
across - need similarly shady references. Right now, they go by the
bland titles of P4 and P5.
Online voting will last two weeks, ending Feb. 25. Twelve choices are available at the website http://www.plutorocks.com.
the choices: Hercules, the hero who slew Hydra; Obol, the coin put in
the mouths of the dead as payment to Charon; Cerebrus, the three-headed
dog guarding the gates of the underworld; Orpheus, the musician and poet
who used his talents to get his wife, Eurydice, out of the underworld
only to lose her by looking back: Eurydice; and Styx, the river to the
As of Monday afternoon, Styx and Cerebrus were leading. The vote tally is updated hourly.
Greeks were great storytellers, and they have given us a colorful cast
of characters to work with," said Mark Showalter, senior research
scientist at SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center in Mountain View, Calif.
He and other astronomers who discovered the two mini-moons using the Hubble Space Telescope will make the winning selections.
Write-in name suggestions are welcomed, but they need to come from Greek or Roman mythology and deal with the underworld.
name for the planetoid, or dwarf planet near the outer fringes of the
solar system came from a little English girl. Pluto's discoverer, Clyde
Tombaugh, liked that the first two letters were the same as the initials
of late American astronomer Percival Lowell. Tombaugh discovered Pluto
in 1930 using the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is en route to Pluto, arriving in 2015 on the first robotic flyby ever of the planetoid.
The winning moon names will need final approval by the International Astronomical Union.
there won't be any conflicts like when the name Nix was picked. The
night goddess actually is spelled Nyx, but an asteroid already had the
moniker so the proper spelling for the moon had to be nixed.