It's time to give Pluto's newly discovered moons permanent names. They've thus far been referred to as P4 and P5, according to the team that discovered the moons in 2011 and 2012.
Led by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in California, the discovery team has naming rights for the two moons. The team announced on Feb. 11 that it has opened a contest for public voting on the names.
"We will take your votes and suggestions into consideration when we propose the names for P4 and P5 to the international astronomical community," says the post announcing the contest.
Voters can select from one of 12 proposed names based on Greek and Roman mythology related to ancient tales about Hades and the Underworld, as Pluto. Its three previously discovered moons — Charon, Nix and Hydra — have traditionally been named in this manner.
The proposed names for the two moons, and background information on the names, as provided by the discovery team, are:
- Acheron — One of the five rivers of the underworld, symbolizing pain.
- Alecto — One of the furies, hideous snake-haired monsters who were servants of Hades. It was the job of Alecto to punish mortals for their crimes of anger.
- Cerberus — The three-headed dog who guards the gates to the underworld, preventing the the dead from escaping.
- Erebus — A primordial god and the personification of darkness. With Nyx, he fathered many children including Hypnos and Styx.
- Eurydice — The wife of Orpheus, for whom he entered the underworld. During their journey home, Orpheus violated his agreement with Persephone not to look back, and Eurydice was lost forever.
- Hercules — The heroic demigod who slew the Hydra, entered the underworld and who also carried Cerberus back, one of very few who ever returned from the underworld.
- Hypnos — A son of Nyx and the personification of sleep.
- Lethe — One of the five rivers of the underworld, symbolizing oblivion, which flows through the cave of Hypnos and merges with the river Styx.
- Obol — The coin paid to Charon in order to obtain passage across the river Styx.
- Orpheus — A gifted musician who entered the underworld to retrieve his wife Eurydice and charmed Hades and Persephone with his music to become the only mortal ever to return from the underworld.
- Persephone — A goddess kidnapped by Hades to become the queen of the underworld who symbolizes vegetation and rebirth.
- Styx — The river that separates Earth from the underworld. The name also refers to the goddess of the river Styx, daughter of Nyx and Erebus.
Voting ends at noon Monday, February 25th, 2013.
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