Science

Astronomers Ask For Help Naming Pluto's Newly Discovered Moons

By Hilda Scott email: h.scott@itechpost.com , Feb 11, 2013 02:21 PM EST

A team of astronomers is seeking the public's help in naming two recently discovered, tiny moons that belong to the planet Pluto. The two moons currently are referred to under the generic markers "P4" and "P5."

P4 was discovered in 2011 when images were taken of it by the Hubble Space Telescope. A year later, P5 was discovered as researchers were conducting a deep search for unseen objects orbiting around Pluto. The moons are small, with linear measurements of only 20 to 30km, equivalent to 15 to 20 miles. NASA's New Horizon spacecraft is set to land on Pluto in 2015 and researchers currently are paying close attention to the dwarf planet.

Pluto is the Roman counterpart of the Greek god of the underworld, Hades. Pluto's three other moons also were assigned names from Greek or Roman mythology and are called Charon, Nix and Hydra. In Greek mythology, Charon is the boatsman who ferried the souls of the dead into the underworld across the river Styx. Hydra is the name of the multi-headed monster that guards the underworld and Nis is the goddess of the night.

The names of the moons will be selected by the team of astronomers that discovered the moons. The team is asking the public to vote and will weigh the voting outcome in deciding the names. In keeping with tradition, the names will be related to tales of Hades and the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology.

"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, Calif.

Voting for the names of the two moons will end on Feb. 25. Visitors also are encouraged to submit write-in suggestions of names to the Web site. Once reviewed, the names will be added to the ballot and then a formal approval by the International Astronomical Union will occur before the final names are announced. To vote for the names of the moons, visit http://www.plutorocks.com/.

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