Star Trek fans rejoice: Pluto’s new moon may be named ‘Vulcan’4 min read

With a major boost from the hit sci-fi series “Star Trek,” one of Pluto’s newly-discovered moons may be named “Vulcan” —that is, if it keeps its lead over some 30,000 other entries.
Vulcan is the Roman god of lava and smoke and the nephew of Pluto, but many people know it as the homeworld of Spock, the pointy-eared sidekick of USS Enterprise captain James Kirk.
The two new moons were discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011 and 2012. NBC News said the voting is to conclude at noon Eastern Time on Monday.

As of Monday evening (Manila time), Vulcan had a commanding lead over the other entries in a naming contest for the moons, with well over 150,000 votes.
In contrast, Cerberus, which has the second highest number of votes as of Sunday, has slightly over 80,000.
Planetary scientist Mark Showalter noted it was William Shatner, the actor who played Kirk in the original series, who nominated Vulcan for the “Pluto Rocks” contest.
Shatner continued to campaign for Vulcan over the weekend:



LLAP, of course, stands for “Live long and prosper,” Spock’s classic greeting.
For his part, Showalter said the ballot has been a “real education” for him.
“The write-in ballot has been a real education for me. We sifted through (about 30,000) entries, many of them backed up by very thoughtful arguments. Thank you to all who participated,” Showalter, a member of the P4/P5 discovery team, said in a blog entry.
He said that while nominations are now closed, he will keep the list of suggested names handy likely for July 2015, when New Horizons reaches Pluto and finds possibly more new moons.
‘Trek’ skew
NBC News quoted Showalter as saying Shatner’s endorsement for Vulcan skewed the results.
“Early on, it’s pretty clear there were some Trek fans who seem to have resorted to augmented voting technologies,” he said.
However, he said he is convinced the support for Vulcan is genuine, and he said he’s “come up with a pretty good case” for using the name.
Showalter also promised to argue the best case he can for the winning entries.
“My starting position is that we should work with the names that received the most votes,” Showalter told NBC News on Friday.
No guarantee
On the other hand, NBC News noted that even if Vulcan wins the name game, its backers will not automatically see one of the new moons named after it.
It said it is not totally up to Showalter and his group to make the nomination, as he is just one of the leading scientists on the discovery teams for P4 and P5.
“All the members from each of the teams will have to agree on the names to be submitted to the International Astronomical Union for approval. Even then, the IAU could voice concerns about the names they submit, leading to alternate suggestions. Showalter said he’s actually seen that happen in the case of the Uranian moon that ended up being called Cupid,” it said.
Tricky argument
Showalter admitted it could be tricky to have the god of fire associated with one of the coldest places in the solar system.
“It may well be there’s a consensus that it’s a great name, but not a great name for a moon of Pluto,” he said.
Also, NBC News said the name Vulcan has been associated with a hypothetical planet that was thought to circle the sun within Mercury’s orbit.
It said some have also suggested reserving the name Vulcan for a planet beyond our own solar system, but Showalter said there is no IAU procedure for giving names to extrasolar planets.
Second suggestion
Meanwhile, Showalter said Shatner’s second name suggestion, Romulus, has a problem because it is already the name of a moon.
“Romulus, along with his brother Remus, are the names of the moons of the asteroid 87 Silvia. They were discovered by a team led by my good colleague Franck Marchis, now a senior scientist at the SETI Institute,” he said. TJD,

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Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

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