An artist’s concept shows Pluto as seen from one of its moons. Image credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon.
An 11-year-old girl gave Pluto its name, so it’s only fitting that the SETI Institute is calling on the public at large to suggest names for the dwarf planet’s newly discovered moons.
Pluto (then deemed a full-fledged planet) was itself a recent discovery back in 1930, when Venitia Burney’s grandfather read a newspaper account of the ninth planet from the sun. Burney suggested Pluto. The Disney character would be introduced to the world that same year, but the youngster was thinking Roman mythology, the god of the underworld able to make himself invisible. The suggestion was relayed to astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered “Planet X,” and Pluto has been Pluto ever since, even though it is no longer considered a planet, but a dwarf planet.
“I like to think that we are doing honor to Tombaugh's legacy by now opening up the naming of Pluto's two tiniest known moons to everyone,” wrote Mark Showalter, on behalf of the SETI Institute team that discovered P4 and P5 in a blog post.
The team has suggested a dozen names drawn from Greek and Roman mythology, though write-in votes are also allowed. Voting will continue online through Feb. 25.