It’s not often that scientists get the opportunity to name new moons discovered orbiting a planet in our solar system. The International Astronomical Union is the body charged with making official name designations for celestial bodies and its rules say that the names have to come from mythology. This is how the second and third place winners in the public poll to name objects formally known as P5 and P4 orbiting Pluto got their names.
The winning name in the public poll was Vulcan, the name of the planet where Spock is from in the Star Trek universe. Even though Vulcan won the vote, it was vetoed because it doesn’t come from mythology. Therefore, the two winning names were the second and third place selections on the list.
Pluto’s two recently discovered moons are now officially known as Styx and Kerberos. Styx ‘s mythical river that separates the living from the dead and Kerberos is a mythical three headed dog. P4 and P5 were discovered in July 2011 and July of 2012 respectively. They were discovered when a team using the Hubble space telescope noted the new moons while searching for rings around the dwarf planet Pluto.