Trekkies have a reason to celebrate as the 2 week long contest to name Pluto’s moons, P4 and P5, has ended and the name Vulcan has come out on top!
Last week we reported that William Shatner had requested the organizers of SETI’s ‘Name Pluto’s Moon’ contest to add the name Vulcan and Romulus to their list. While they denied the name Romulus (as it was already being used), they did allow Vulcan to be added to the other 20 options to choose from.
‘Star Trek’ fans are very familiar with the name Vulcan as it is the name of the planet by which the iconic alien character Spock came from. SETI scientist Mark Showalter had written that the name was appropriate to place on the list as “Vulcan is the Roman god of lava and smoke, and the nephew of Pluto. Any connection to the ‘Star Trek’ TV series is purely coincidental…” (I doubt many Trekkies actually believed that explanation!)
Voting ended on February 25, and with 450,324 votes cast, Vulcan had an overwhelming win with 174,062 votes easily coming out ahead of second place name, Cerberus, with 99,432 votes.
Cerberus, for those wondering, is the name of the three headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld in Greek mythology and prevents those who have crossed the river Styx from escaping.
SETI will be recommending the winning first and second place names to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the institute which is made up of professional astronomers around the world and is responsible for naming planetary objects.
While the news is exciting (after all, how awesome would it be to have a moon named Vulcan in our solar system), the IAU has the final decision in what to name Pluto’s moons and it will be up to them whether or not to use SETI’s recommendations. According to the Pluto Rocks site, it could take 1-2 months before an official name is chosen for moons P4 and P5. So, at this time, we’re still waiting to see if popular convention will outweigh scientific stodginess.
We can only hope that many of the astronomers on the IAU are ‘Star Trek’ fans!
We’ll make sure to let you know the outcome once the IAU makes an official decision.