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William Shatner gets ‘Vulcan’ added to possible Pluto moon names

The orbits of Pluto's moon. NASA / ESA / A. Feild (STScI) image
Yesterday I mentioned that astronomers at the SETI institute, who were involved in the discovery of two more moons orbiting Pluto, had started a public ballot to give those two moons better names than their boring official designations. Well, they included a 'write-in' option on the ballot, and it looks like actor William Shatner's suggestion made a big impact on them.

[ Related: Alien moons may be easier to photograph than planets ]

Now, they couldn't go with Romulus, because there's already a satellite that goes by that name. Both Romulus and Remus orbit the main belt asteroid 87 Sylvia, which is the first asteroid found to have two natural satellites orbiting it. However, 'Vulcan' resonated with the astronomers, and not only because of a Star Trek actor suggesting it. According to Greek mythology, Vulcan is the god of lava and smoke, which may make the name more appropriate for a moon that was orbiting Venus or Mercury (if either planet had one). But Shatner is quite right that there's a connection. Vulcan is also the nephew of Pluto (who is also called Hades), so there's a close relation between them.

According to his Twitter account (@WilliamShatner) he was pretty pleased upon seeing his suggestion get added to the list:

And I bet he was even happier when the choice caught on with voters.

[ More Geekquinox: What if asteroid 2012 DA14 actually hit Toronto? ]

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If you'd like to get in on the voting, or if you have your own ideas for what names they should use, head over to http://www.plutorocks.com/ and have your say. You can even vote multiple times to make sure your choices make the top slots, but as Mark Showalter requests: "please do not vote more than once per day, just so everybody gets a fair chance to make their opinion known."

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