Tag Archives: naming things

The International Astronomical Union has rejected the first choice of voters for naming Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has picked names for Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons, rejecting Vulcan, the first choice of the public.

After the discovery [of the moons], the leader of the research team, Mark Showalter (SETI Institute), decided to call for a public vote to suggest names for the two objects. To be consistent with the names of the other Pluto satellites, the names had to be picked from classical mythology, in particular with reference to the underworld — the realm where the souls of the deceased go in the afterlife. The contest concluded with the proposed names Vulcan, Cerberus and Styx ranking first, second and third respectively. Showalter submitted Vulcan and Cerberus to the IAU where the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) and the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (WGSBN) discussed the names for approval.

However, the name Vulcan had already been used for a hypothetical planet between Mercury and the Sun. Although this planet was found not to exist, the term “vulcanoid” remains attached to any asteroid existing inside the orbit of Mercury, and the name Vulcan could not be accepted for one of Pluto’s satellites (also, Vulcan does not fit into the underworld mythological scheme). Instead the third most popular name was chosen — Styx, the name of the goddess who ruled over the underworld river, also called the Styx.

I just can’t wait until there really is a robust population of space-faring colonists, if only because those colonists will then tell the IAU to go to hell when it tries to tell them what to name things.