William Shatner: One night he's doing a cameo at the Oscars, the next day he's naming one of Pluto's moons. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)Link
This file photo provided and annotated by NASA/Hubble Space Telescope shows the five moons in their orbits around Pluto. (AP Photo/NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)Link
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, File)Link
William Shatner, moon-namer?
That’s right. The actor, who appeared opposite Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars on Sunday night in the guise of “Star Trek’s” Captain Kirk, has spent the last week and a half waging a Twitter campaign to name one of Pluto’s two recently discovered moons “Vulcan.” And as of Monday, it appears he will be successful.
More than 450,000 ballots were cast in an online vote at the website Plutorocks.com, and the name Vulcan, which was originally suggested by Shatner, has emerged as the clear winner.
“174,062 votes and Vulcan came out on top of the voting for the naming of Pluto’s moons. Thank you to all who voted! MBB” Shatner wrote on his Twitter feed. (“MBB” stands for “My best, Bill”)
The dwarf planet already has three named moons — Hydra, Nix and Charon. Like the name Pluto, they were pulled from Greek and Roman mythology and are related to Hades and the underworld.
The two nameless moons — currently known as P-4 and P-5 — were discovered in the last two years by a team led by Mark Showalter, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute.
Because he helped discover the two moons, Showalter gets the privilege of naming them. He has actually had some experience naming moons in the past, but this time around, he thought he would get the public involved.
He created the website plutorocks.com and asked visitors to the site to vote on names for the moons. He suggested 12 names for the moons, and also created a write-in ballot page where visitors could suggest their own names. The ground rules were that the name had to come from Greek and Roman mythology and be related to Hades and the underworld.
Shatner’s pick was added to the ballot just two days after voting started and quickly shot to the top of the list after Shatner began reminding his Twitter followers to vote for Vulcan on a daily basis. The name meets the poll’s requirements because Vulcan – in addition to being the name of Spock’s home planet in “Star Trek” — is the Roman god of fire and a nephew of Pluto.
The second-place winner was Cerberus — the name of the three-headed dog that guards the underworld and keeps people from escaping.
The names still need to be approved by the International Astronomical Union, which Showalter says can take up to two months.
– Deborah Netburn