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article image'Vulcan' overwhelming choice of names for Pluto's smallest moons

By Greta McClain     Mar 2, 2013 in Science
Mountain View - Star Trek fans have reason to celebrate after learning their choice for the name of one of Pluto's smallest moon is the overwhelming favorite.
In 2001, scientists discovered a tiny moon orbiting the dwarf planet of Pluto, naming it simply P4. A year later, they discovered a second tiny moon, dubbed P5. Knowing the moons needed proper names, researchers at the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe decided to hold a naming contest via their website. The contest was announced on February 10th of this year by the institute's senior researcher Mark Showalter. In his blog, Showalter says the contest follows in the tradition of Pluto's founder, Clyde Tombaugh.
In 1930, an 11-year-old Oxford, England girl named Venetia Burney, heard about Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto from her grandfather. She suggested the newly discovered planet be named after the Roman God of the Underworld, Pluto. She chose the name partly because Pluto was able to make himself invisible, and up until 1930, the planet had been invisible to scientists. Tombaugh liked the suggestion and it became the official name of the distant planet.
In honor of Tombaugh, Showalter decided to hold the naming contest so P4 and P5 could have official names. Wanting to stay with the Greek mythology and Hades tradition, Showalter listed a few of his favorite available names to get the voting process started. However, he encouraged voters to suggest their own ideas which could be added to the list.
William Shatner uses Twitter to suggest people vote Vulcan as one of the names for Pluto s two small...
William Shatner uses Twitter to suggest people vote Vulcan as one of the names for Pluto's two smallest moons.
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On February 12th, William Shatner, Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series, suggested two names: Vulcan, the Roman god of lava and smoke, and nephew of Pluto, along with Romulus. Romulus was out however because it was already being used as the name of one of the moons orbiting the asteroid 87 Silvia.
Shatner took to Twitter, asking his fans what they thought of the name Vulcan. The next day he announced the name had officially been added to the list of eligible names.
The final results of the Pluto Rocks moon naming contest
The final results of the Pluto Rocks moon naming contest
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Other suggests were also added over the course of the two week contest. When the contest ended on Monday, Vulcan was overwhelmingly the favorite. With 174,062 votes, it beat out its closest competitor, Cerberus, by nearly 75,000 votes.
There were a total of 21 names voters could chose from. The contest, called Pluto Rocks, garnered 450324 votes, meaning Vulcan received more than a third of the votes.
The official announcement of the winning names has not been announced due to the fact they must first be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). However it certainly appears as if Vulcan is destined to become the name of one of the moons. As National Geographic points out, Leonard Nimoy, the most famous Vulcan of all, says:
"It [is] the logical choice."
More about Pluto, Moon, moons, Vulcan, Name
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