Pluto: Two moons need names, and you can help

Feb. 11, 2013 | 3:24 p.m.
pluto contest 1 Pluto: Two moons need names, and you can help

This photo provided and annotated by NASA / Hubble Space Telescope shows the five moons in their orbits around Pluto. The smallest moons — no more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) across — were discovered in the last two years and are currently referred to as P4 and P5. (AP Photo / NASA / Hubble Space Telescope)

pluto contest2 Pluto: Two moons need names, and you can help

This file image provided by NASA on Feb. 22, 2006, from its Hubble Space Telescope shows Pluto and three of its five moons. (AP Photo / NASA)

Two of Pluto’s moons need naming, and scientists are asking for your help.

The moons are fairly recent discoveries, which is why they haven’t been given official names yet. The one  currently known as P4 was discovered in the summer of 2011. The one currently designated as P5 was discovered in the summer of 2012.

Space discovery tradition holds that the person who finds a new object in space has 10 years to suggest a name for it.  But not just any old name will do — the International Astronomical Union has rules for these things. The proposed name should be 16 characters or less in length, only a single word, pronounceable (so no elaborate set of initials), non-offensive, and shouldn’t sound too much like the name of another minor planet or natural planetary satellite.

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By this convention, the  naming of P4 and P5 falls to Mark Showalter, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute who led one of the teams that found the two moons. Showalter has already had some experience finding and naming moons — he discovered and named Pan, the innermost moon of Saturn, and two moons of Uranus — Mab and Cupid.

But this time, he decided to open the naming experience to the public. He created a website called Pluto Rocks, where people can vote on a new name for the moons.

Unfortunately, the naming field is not wide open. Pluto has three other named moons — Charon, Hydra and Nix — all pulled from Greek mythology and all related to Hades and the underworld. So Showalter has selected 12 potential names and is asking people to vote on their favorite.

The voting started on Monday and will end at noon EST on Feb. 25. As of this writing, Styx (as in the river) is in the lead with 8,000 and Cerberus (the three-headed dog who guards the gates of the underworld) is in second.

Showalter is willing to consider additional names, however, and there is a place on the site for a write-in ballot.

But Batman and Robin, for instance, won’t work.

— Deborah Netburn

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62 Responses to Pluto: Two moons need names, and you can help

  1. Max Møller says:

    It's gotta be Chip and Dale

  2. travis sherwood says:

    Micky and Minny of course since plluto was their dog

  3. Jackson Lopez says:

    Cerberus and Hell’s Gate

  4. R. L. Smith says:

    How about moe, Larry and curly

  5. Joseph samaan says:

    Pluto’s moon names:

    hanibaal and kadmous

  6. Bluzboy says:

    Cerebus and Orthrus. Orthrus was the hell hound brother of Cerebus.

    • "Phanessa" says:

      This one's actually pretty cool, especially since most of the planets are already named from the Greco-Roman times/names. These names have my votes!

  7. Joaquin de la Rosa says:

    P4 = pope benedict xvi
    P5 = pope benedict xvii

  8. Guest says:

    Elmira and Tristar

  9. janice says:

    dan & jan



  11. J. Pudwill says:

    Mickey and Goofy?

    Mickey and Donald?

    Bosco and Remus?


  12. Joe says:

    Son of a planet!

  13. ... says:

    Obama & Putin

  14. Margie Barbosa says:

    Mickey and Minnie

  15. Steve says:

    Feynman and Plank

  16. VEG says:

    Cheyenne & Jackson
    I'm a Cheyennetologist.
    And a Scorpio ruled by Pluto.

  17. Daniel G says:

    Make it a planet again and ill help name the moons .

  18. Mike Wrathell says:

    Persephone, Pluto's wife, and Cerberus, his dog. A god's best friend is his dog, too, is it not?

  19. Nancy says:

    Donald and Daisy

  20. Ted Nugent says:

    Christopher Dorner

  21. Guest says:

    Barack and Michelle.

  22. Valeria says:

    Narcissus and Cypress, Pluto's sacred plants.

  23. Carl says:

    How can these be moons if Pluto is not a planet. Besides being the name of Earths only natural sattelite, the definition of moon is "a natural sattelite of a planet." Just curious

  24. paulino fontes says:

    flea and ear mite…what else would Pluto have?

  25. Sokomobol says:

    Rhianna & Chris! :)

  26. Russell Gibson says:

    Diapente, Triton,

  27. James says:

    I'd say Pix & Fix

  28. Randy. Smith says:

    Alderon and tattoine

  29. R.IAN LATIMER says:

    Juno and Apollo as they will soon be abiding with Pluto.

  30. Sonny says:

    Micky and Minnie. No contest>

  31. rashi says:

    unicorn and saphira

  32. andrew says:



  33. Joseph Grcar says:

    Should name them Malia and Sasha.

  34. Seriago says:

    “Frodo” and “Sam” … Side by side, both took journey from the outskirts towards middle Earth. Small and easily dismissed they first appeared yet grand and tenacious they then revealed.

  35. shenonymous says:

    Eurydice and Orpheus!

  36. Think+ says:

    Primus & Iacon.

  37. felix says:

    They might be asteroids mistaken for moons and pluto is not a planet as previously thought how it has moons now. Can it be moons exist on their own without a planet?

  38. Guest says:

    I think we should hold out until they make Pluto a planet again!

  39. kat says:

    RENE & ESME, from the Twilight Breaking Dawn series The names of the two mothers in the story.

  40. Raj says:

    uto and luto

  41. Heber C. Kimball says:

    Ummim and Thumim

  42. Michael says:


  43. jerin says:

    "sasikuttan" , "ittoop"

  44. mitchbird says:

    I am going to have to go with Rupert for one of them. In honor of Tricia McMillan's first visit there. When she hung out with the aliens who were marooned there and owing to an odd set of circumstances was only able to achieve photographic evidence which looked almost exactly not quite like someone had spent ten minutes chopping it together in Photoshop; not to mention the deeper lesson of when and when not to go back for your purse… Oh yes, I don't think we could honestly face ourselves if we awoke on the day following not having reached out to the small planetoid that finally takes us all out… bringing the sausage like entity that is the Earth in all of its probability planes to its final and infinite destruction. Read the books… HH2G

  45. leakh says:

    Zuse and athena

    Athena is his little girl

  46. chris eley says:

    Osiris & Isis

  47. Zinayda says:

    Zinayda and Victor

  48. ASHOK GUPTA says:


  49. Righteous Andrea says:

    First I suggest that the two moons will be named as David and Solomon,
    For in mythology Pluto is one of the Goddess that perform a mighty deeds in heavenly bodies like life of King David And King Solomon her on earth.

    Next suggestions is Jew And Hebrew, for in the present generation is called the end time,
    so their is an era which will come to an end. And beginning of another era concerning about time.
    Jews Era is a time of choosing people of the LORD GOD or chosen people. Hebrews is a time of Righteousness of the LORD it is a chosen generation, its a time of discovery of the new moon

  50. Mirna san says:

    planet MIRNAH and Christian……….it should be fair ……alittle nameing…jiji

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