Back in February, the International Astronomical Union decided to flex its social media muscles by creating Pluto Rocks, which allowed the naming of Pluto’s two most recently discovered moons, previously called “P4” and “P5,” to fall into the hands of voters. And the people have spoken! Well, about 500,000 of us. Not exactly the number of voters that something like The Voice gets on a weekly basis, but it’s not bad for a science-sanctioned poll. That said, I bet more people would have voted had “Adam Levine” been a choice. Sigh.
Voters had 12 names to choose from, all of which were related to Pluto’s mythological role as the Greek god of the underworld. Where they made their mistake was in allowing a write-in vote. Whereas contests in other areas may have yielded prank results, voters were very serious in following William Shatner’s beck and call to get Vulcan to win the vote. 170,000 people or so voted for it, making it a shoe-in, as three-headed demon dog Cerberus was in second-place with almost 100,000 votes. But in a movie that was very “wishy washy government style” for an international union, neither of those names actually made it.
A statement from SETI explains:
The IAU gave serious consideration to this name, which happens to be shared by the Roman god of volcanoes. However, because that name has already been used in astronomy, and because the Roman god is not closely associated with Pluto, this proposal was rejected.
Oddly enough, the second choice Shatner offered, Romulus, was discounted due to it already existing as an asteroid’s moon. You’d think one discounting would have informed the next, and then everyone could have voted on a third new thing. Instead, we have Kerberos and Styx!
See? The name Cerberus didn’t make the cut either, because it was also the name of an asteroid. But because Cerberus has a Greek counterpart, Kerberos, the scientists just went with that one. Why did it make the list in the first place? I have no idea.
Styx, the river between the Earth and the Greek Underworld, came in third place with around 88,000 votes. There was no switcheroo there, besides it winning its spot to begin with.
Discovered last year by use of the Hubble Space Telescope, Kerberos and Styx will join Charon, Nix, and Hydra in being ogled whenever NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches that section of our solar system in 2015. It’ll search for additional moons and will hit the Kuiper Belt, the icy celestial formation left over from the the beginnings of the solar system. It contains the other two dwarf planets, Haumea and Makemake.
And because it would be remiss of me as an employee of this website not to play Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” here is Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.”