Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Moons of our Solar System

3.8 What’s in a name?

The naming of S/2011 P1 and S/2012 P1 was open to an unofficial internet poll where the name ‘Vulcan’ won. However, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) could not accept this name. Vulcan is not connected with the underworld theme that has been adopted for Pluto, and had already been used to name the (hypothetical) vulcanoid asteroids. William Shatner, Star Trek’s ‘Captain Kirk’, had tried to get Romulus added to the poll, but the organisers themselves ruled that out, because Romulus is already used for one of the two moons of the asteroid 87 Sylvia.

In the end, S/2011 P1 was named Kerberos, a Greek spelling of Cerberus, the dog that guarded the mythological underworld. S/2012 P1 was named Styx, after the river that bordered the underworld. Cerberus and Styx in fact came second and third in the poll, so the public did have a say in the official names.

Described image
Figure 60 A screen grab of the BBC News website on 2 July 2013 in which Pluto’s moons make the news.

See also: BBC News - Pluto moons get mythical new names [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . The recently discovered fourth and fifth moons of Pluto now have official names: Kerberos and Styx.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371