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Help name Pluto's two newest moons

February 11, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Want to help name Pluto's newest moons?

The SETI Institute and Dr. Mark Showalter are conducting a poll at ( on behalf of the discovery team.

The names up for consideration all have something to do with Greek and Roman mythology of the underworld, as befits Pluto, the planetary body that was named after the god of the underworld. His Greek name was Hades.

The names being voted on include Acheron, a river in the underworld that symbolized pain; Alecto, who punished humans for the crime of anger; Cerberus, Pluto's three-headed dog who guarded the gates to the underworld; Erebus, the personification of darkness; Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus whom he tried and failed to rescue from the underworld after she died; Heracles, a demi-god who completed heroic feats; Hypnos, the personification of sleep; Lethe, a river in the underworld that symbolized oblivion; Obol, the coin paid by the dead to cross the river Styx to reach the underworld; Orpheus, a handsome musician who tried and failed to rescue his dead wife from the underworld. However, he was the only person to return from the underworld alive; Persephone, the wife of Hades and queen of the underworld; Styx, a river that separates Earth and the underworld.

So far the top vote-getters are Cerberus and Styx. People can vote once a day. The poll runs until noon on Feb. 25. The poll isn't binding, but the poll organizers will take the winning votes into account in suggesting names for the moons.


Article Comments



Feb-16-13 1:27 PM

Sisyphus and Tantalus are two mythical figures whose stories stayed with me long after I learned about them in high school. Existential futility is Sisyphus and unbearable covetousness is Tantalus, or that's how I viewed them.

But as these two relate to the underworld theme? Hmmm, not so much. I'll stick with my original choices, Lethe and Hypnos. They sound like an interesting pair of sisters.


Feb-15-13 4:56 PM

The International Astronomical Union or IAU (Union astronomique internationale or UAI, in French) is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy. It acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.


Feb-15-13 3:33 PM

There are rules about the names they give to different asteroids and moons, apparently. The names they give to Pluto's moons are supposed to come from Greek or Roman underworld myths.


Feb-15-13 1:57 PM

They sure like to stay in the footsteps of the ancient astronomers don't they? I wonder why?


Feb-15-13 11:11 AM

Also Thanatos, the god of death and twin brother of Hypnos.

So far Vulcan, which was suggested by William Shatner, has the lead, followed by Styx and Cerberus. The voting continues until Feb. 25.


Feb-15-13 11:10 AM

The scientists have added several other suggestions, but sadly, not MIckey or Minnie.

The new ideas are: Elysium (the Ancient Greek concept of a pleasant afterlife for heroes and righteous people) Hecate, an ancient goddess associated with magic and witchcraft, crossroads, entryways, etc. Hercules, a famous Greek demi-god and hero. Melinoe, a daughter of Persephone, queen of the underworld, and goddess of nightmares. Orthrus, Cerberus's brother, another three-headed dog. Sisyphus, the king punished by being forced to roll a boulder up a hill in hell, only to have it roll back down just before it reached the top. Tantalus, punished by being made to stand in a pool of water underneath a fruit tree with low-hanging branches that he was never able to touch and water that receded before he was able to take a drink. Tartarus, the region of the underworld where bad people like Sisyphus and Tantalus were punished for all eternity.


Feb-15-13 8:18 AM

Loco i have not a single politically correct bone in my body, I say it as I see it. Thank you!


Feb-14-13 7:46 PM

Early, I was thinking the very same names. Really! Then I chickened out before typing them. Good on ya! :-)


Feb-13-13 10:25 AM

Well we have Pluto how about Mickey and Minnie? Maybe Goofy or Donald not sure which I like.


Feb-12-13 5:12 PM

I noticed they have now added Vulcan, which would be kind of cool and make Trekkies happy.

Styx and Cerebus seem to be the obvious choices and are far ahead. One of the other moons is called Charon, the name of the boatman who ferried dead people across the River Styx to the underworld. Hydra was the snake monster who, like Cerebus, guarded one of the gates to the underworld.

I've always liked the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, though, and I like the idea of calling the moons after them. Maybe there are already asteroids or moons called that, though.


Feb-12-13 12:45 PM


"(Pluto)...was brutally demoted in 2006 when it was found that other large — and larger — celestial bodies shared the Kuiper Belt with the dwarf planet."

Now I'm up to speed. Warp speed, that is.

Names? Lethe and Hypnos are my choices.


Feb-12-13 12:41 PM

from dvice, 7-11-12...

"Pluto may never again be considered a proper planet, but at least it won't be lonely. The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted another moon orbiting the dwarf planet — raising Pluto's satellite count to five — as Hubble was checking out the plutoid for a Pluto-bound NASA mission.

"Hubble was gazing Pluto's way as it checked the path of New Horizons, a robotic spacecraft launched by NASA in 2006. Right now, New Horizons is somewhere between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, and it's set for a flyby of Pluto sometime in 2015. As it zips by, it'll have an opportunity to study Pluto and its five moons closer than ever before, and it could even move on to other objects in the Kuiper Belt that Pluto resides in. That is, if some secret sixth moon doesn't smash it to bits.

"Pluto, discovered in 1930 by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, was brutally demoted in 2006 when it was found that other large — and larger — celestial bodies shared the Kuiper Bel


Feb-12-13 12:40 PM

Wait a minute here. Wasn't Pluto taken off the list of planets a few years back? When did Pluto make its return to planetary respectability? I feel like I've been out to lunch about this issue. Probably at the Free Lunch Counter Cafe where Jack's the best customer. Really though, where have I been on this?


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