Contest: Name two of Pluto’s new moons

Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Featured, Mission to Space | 0 comments

An artist's conception of Pluto shows the planetoid with a large crater.

An artist’s conception of Pluto shows the planetoid with a large crater.

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.

Pluto 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 monster Hydra.

A look at the five moons in their orbits around Pluto. The smallest moons — no more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) across — were discovered in that past two years and are currently referred to as P4 and P5. (AP Photo/NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)

A look at the five moons in their orbits around Pluto. The smallest moons — no more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) across — were discovered in that past two years and are currently referred to as P4 and P5. (AP Photo/NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)

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.pluto rocks.com.

The choices are:

  • Acheron – One of the five rivers of the underworld, symbolizing pain.
  • Alecto – One of the furies, hideous snake-haired monsters who were servants of Hades. It was the job of Alecto to punish mortals for their crimes of anger.
  • Cerberus (or Kerberos) – The three-headed dog who guards the gates to the underworld, preventing the the dead from escaping.
  • Erebus – A primordial god and the personification of darkness. With Nyx, he fathered many children including Hypnos and Styx.
  • Eurydice – The wife of Orpheus, for whom he entered the underworld. During their journey home, Orpheus violated his agreement with Persephone not to look back, and Eurydice was lost forever.
  • Heracles (or Hercules) – The heroic demigod who slew the Hydra, entered the underworld and who also carried Cerberus back. He is one of very few who ever returned from the underworld.
  • Hypnos – A son of Nyx and the personification of sleep.
  • Lethe — One of the five rivers of the underworld, symbolizing oblivion. It flows through the cave of Hypnos and merges with the river Styx.
  • Obol (or Obolus) – The coin paid to Charon in order to obtain passage across the river Styx.
  • Orpheus (or Orfeus) – A gifted musician who entered the underworld to retrieve his wife Eurydice. He charmed Hades and Persephone with his music, and became the only mortal ever to return from the underworld.
  • Persephone (or Proserpina) – A goddess kidnapped by Hades to become the queen of the underworld.  She is the symbolizes vegetation and rebirth.
  • Styx – The river that separates Earth from the underworld. This name also refers to the goddess of the river Styx, daughter of Nyx and Erebus.
This file image provided by NASA  from it's Hubble Space Telescope shows Pluto and three of it's five moons.  (AP Photo/NASA, File)

This file image provided by NASA from it’s Hubble Space Telescope shows Pluto and three of it’s five moons. (AP Photo/NASA, File)

“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 SETI Institute’s Carl Sagan Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Write-in name suggestions are welcomed, but they need to come from Greek or Roman mythology and deal with the underworld.

The name for Pluto 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.

Reported by MARCIA DUNN of the Associated Press from CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.
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Online:

Pluto-naming contest: http://www.plutorocks.com/

Johns Hopkins University: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/index.php

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