William Shatner Summons Trekkies To Name Pluto’s Moon Vulcan

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You may recall last week, when we told you that the SETI Institute was inviting the public to help name P4 and P5, Pluto’s so-far-untitled moons. The existing, already-named moons are called Nix, Charon, and Hydra. They all fit within the International Astronomical Union’s naming convention for the dwarf planet’s satellites: namely, that “Those that share Pluto’s orbital rhythm take the name of underworld deities.” The proposed new names all fit within that pattern, but SETI also invited voters to write in their own suggestions. And then William Shatner happened.

Don't ask us to explain this picture.

Don’t ask us to explain this picture.

The man best known for exploring the galaxy as James T. Kirk appealed to his fans and asked them to write in “Vulcan” for one of the moons’ proposed names. Unsurprisingly, his people responded, and Vulcan is now leading the vote, with Cerberus and Styx vying for second place. Once voting is complete on February 25th, researcher Mark Showalter, who helped discover the unnamed moons in 2011 and 2012, will take the winners to the IAU for the stamp of approval. The question, however, is whether the IAU will accept Vulcan as a legitimate contender.

Vulcan is the Roman god of fire, and known as the blacksmith of the gods, so he doesn’t really fit within the category of “underworld deities.” Shatner argues that he was the nephew of Pluto, so that familial tie should make Vulcan a contender. Showalter also tossed out Shatner’s other suggested name, Romulus, because there already are a Romulus and Remus out there: a pair of moons orbiting asteroid 87 Silva.

The IAU are also the fuddy-duddies responsible for demoting Pluto from planet to “dwarf planet” back in 2006, a decision that sent poor Pluto into a shame spiral of depression and decadence that only stopped when Saturn and Jupiter staged an intervention. It’s anybody’s guess whether the IAU will approve Vulcan even if it continues to win the vote by a wide margin. Even if it would be the logical decision.

You can cast your vote right here.


  1. Robert Hill says:

    Odd isn’t it…
    Years ago scientists refuted the claim that Pluto was a planet. Apparently that’s changed.

  2. T. Rob Brown says:

    The article calls it a “dwarf planet” — that’s what it was changed to after it lost its “planet” status.

    While I think “Vulcan” is pretty cool and all and I enjoy Star Trek a lot… we really should keep to theme here… before I even read the article past the first paragraph, I was thinking Cerberus (the 2-headed dog) would be PERFECT… You know… Pluto… also the DOG from Disney… so yeah, Cerberus would be perfect — both an underworld name from Greek mythology as well as a dog’s name. My vote is for Cerberus.

    Shatner, is there another moon or planet we can call Vulcan? I’d love to see something out there be called that… just not this one.

  3. Bernard Gore says:

    Sorry, much as I understand the sentiment, to avoid confusion Vulcan isn’t a good choice. It was previously used for a planet believed to exist close to the sun, within or crossing Mercury’s orbit.

    It doesn’t exist, but was accepted for quite a while, and is actually listed in a number of texts and papers. so naming another object this would lead to potential confusion in future, it should be kept for it’s historical usage.

  4. Yep I said it, Alderaan says:

    Personally, I would vote Vulcan because of awesomeness. Second would be Alderaan , just so the geek in me can be happy.