05Jul2013

Names For Pluto’s Two New  Moons.

http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2013/07/03/scisource_sf9688_wide-6f8d8bbfb2af5b59cd769df6b2558775e6596ef9-s6-c30.jpg

This artist’s illustration shows Pluto and one of its moons, Charon. A global consortium of astronomers sets the rules for naming things like asteroids and moons throughout the solar system.

 Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons, discovered in 2011 and 2012, have been named Kerberos and Styx, the  governing body, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) said on Tuesday.

Formerly known as P4 and P5, the names were submitted by the astronomers who found them, with input from the general public in an open contest, the Paris-based organisation said. Kerberos is the Greek spelling for the name Cerberus – a many-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology. Styx was the name of the goddess who ruled over an underworld river by the same name. The moons were discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope.

“Kerberos lies between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, two bigger moons discovered by Hubble in 2005, and Styx lies between Charon, the innermost and biggest moon, and Nix,” said the IAU. Charon was the first moon to be spotted, in 1978. “Kerberos has an estimated diameter of 13 to 34 kilometres and Styx is thought to be irregular in shape and is 10 to 25 km across,” said the IAU. The IAU acts as the arbiter in naming celestial bodies, advised by astronomers.

A dispute over the names of two new moons of Pluto is highlighting a broader battle over who names what in our solar system and beyond. On one side is the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a venerable consortium of astronomers who have set the naming rules for the better part of a century. On the other side, a growing number of astronomers who feel the IAU has unfairly designated itself as the intergalactic naming police.

“The IAU rules ensure that the names work across different languages and cultures in order to support collaborative worldwide research and avoid confusion,” it said in a statement. Pluto, once known as the ninth planet from the Sun, was declassified as a full-fledged planet in August 2006 and joined a new category of dwarf planets, although the decision remains widely contested. At about 2300 kilometres wide, it is two-thirds the size of the Moon and has a mass less than one per cent of the Earth’s.  

 Despite the efforts of some, including Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, neither of them is named Vulcan.  The IAU had an open call for name suggestions from the public. “To be consistent with the names of the other Pluto satellites, the names had to be picked from classical mythology,” said the IAU.

 Vulcan received the most votes followed by Cerberus, Styx. But, the IAU nixed naming one of the moons after Mr. Spock’s home planet for a couple of reasons     The term “vulcanoid” already describes any asteroid existing inside the orbit of Mercury and  the name Vulcan does not come from classical mythology

 The IAU went with Styx and Kerberos. Kerberos the Greek spelling of Cerberus. The IAU made the change to avoid confusion with an asteroid called 1865 Cerberus. Source: SMH &  KVUE.Com

 

 

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