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Trekkies put their stamp on Pluto moon naming contest

After nearly a half million votes cast by the public, Pluto’s two tiniest moons may have new names—one of which could be named after the home world of famous fictional pointy-eared humanoid Mr. Spock.

Astronomer Michael Showalter and his team who discovered these tiny worldlets asked the online community for help in naming the moons, now known only as P4 and P5. The only stipulation for original entries was that names had to be associated with the gods of the underworld from Greek and Roman mythology, just like Pluto and its three other moons.

Originally there were just 12 names on a list to choose from, but thanks to the suggestion of famed actor William Shatner (aka Captain James T. Kirk from the original Star Trek television series), a new, wildly popular entry—Vulcan—took the lead early on. According to ancient Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of lava and is also the nephew of Pluto.

After just over 450,000 votes in less than a month, the winners of the cosmic contest are Vulcan and Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the gates of the underworld.

Vulcan won the contest hands down, getting a whopping 174,064 votes. Cerberus came in a distant second with just over 99,000 votes.

In response to our own callout for names, our National Geographic News readers voted for some great ones. A few matched the leaders on the official list and some were just my personal favorites. These include:


Etna – the volcano Pluto came riding out of on his dark horses

Obol – the coin used during burial rituals to pay Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx

Hypnos and Thanatos – gods of sleep and death and sons of Nyx

Lethe and Cocytus – rivers of the underworld

Serapis – alternative name for Pluto

Romulus and Remus

Mickey and Minnie

Spot and Fido

Expectations are that it will take one to two months for the new moon names to be officially selected and approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). It will be interesting to see if professional stargazers will officially bless the Trekkie favorite Vulcan.

But hey, even actor Leonard Nimoy—who played the most famous representative from that fictional planet—chimed in on Twitter, saying it was the “logical choice.”


  1. Julia
    November 7, 2013, 2:40 pm

    Amen to Gallifrey, Thank you, fellow whovian. Maybe it can be like “Tardis” or something too ^_^

  2. Kate Meaton
    March 9, 2013, 8:37 pm

    IT SHOULD BE GALIFREY!!!! To all the Whovians out there. Even though Galifrey was a planet…it would still be amazing for it to be named that!

  3. thestarofmoon
    March 6, 2013, 12:32 pm

    #pluto #moon names:

    P4 must called “ramsy”
    and P5 must called “faqoa”


  4. thestarofmoon
    March 6, 2013, 12:19 pm

    P4 must called “ramsy”
    and P5 must called “faqoa”

  5. Kat
    March 5, 2013, 12:16 am

    Are we really going to name one of the moons gets named after Star Trek? Please say people come to their sences and don’t base things on a skewed online poll.

  6. Nicole Keith-Garland
    February 27, 2013, 7:14 pm

    Isn’t Luna the moon’s name?

  7. Gbarnold1
    February 27, 2013, 6:52 pm

    @ scoutonymous: Don’t be a lunatic, capitalize that “Moon” when you write it, pardner!

  8. Kim
    February 27, 2013, 6:35 pm

    Vulcan and Cerberus-more Star Trek fans then Harry Potter fans knew about, (or could vote in) the contest. lol

  9. Sabrina Sadique
    Cambridge, MA
    February 27, 2013, 6:24 pm

    Evidently, the sky seems to unfurl only over Europe and its parts (chthonically, divinely, mythologically) rooted in the Western tradition. Why gods for names of moons? Why only Greek and Roman? Why still conform to Eurocentric etymological choices for defining the cosmos? For god’s sake, it’s 2013.

  10. Patrascu Tiberius
    February 27, 2013, 6:06 pm

    it will be nice to name them “Scartaris” and ” Hope” 😀

  11. Richard Velez
    February 27, 2013, 9:21 am

    Outta this world….GOD IS GOOD!

  12. scoutonymous
    a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
    February 26, 2013, 9:50 pm

    Mickey and Minnie are the real gods of the underworld — that of children everywhere.

    Vulcan should be reserved for a planet. And not necessarily for one in this solar system. Not the name of some piddly little moonlet of a an unjustly defrocked former planet. Or maybe call our own moon that. It doesn’t have a name, after all. Just ‘the moon.’

  13. Will Gant
    February 26, 2013, 8:30 pm

    Why can we name P4 “Vulcan” and P5 “Seti Alpha 5”?

    We need a Khan reference in our solar system…..God Futurama was right, its becoming a religion….