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Image of the Day: "Star Trek Lands on Pluto's Moons"



Some craters and other surface features spotted on Pluto by NASA's New Horizons probe in 2015 may end up bearing the name of "Star Trek" characters, as this screenshot from a Google+ Hangout demonstrates. "We might have craters called Sulu and Spock and Kirk and McCoy and so on," Mark Showalter of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif., said during a Google+ Hangout yesterday (July 2). Showalter headed up the team that used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to discover Pluto's two smallest known moons, which were announced in 2011 and 2012.

The names of the two smallest known moons, previously referred to as "P4" and "P5", have been formally approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). P4 has been named Kerberos, after the three-headed dog of Greek mythology. P5 has been named Styx, after the mythological river that separates the world of the living from the realm of the dead. The moons join Pluto's previously known moons Charon, Nix and Hydra. According to IAU rules, Pluto's moons are named for characters associated with the Underworld of Greek and Roman mythology.

Dr. Mark Showalter, Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, led the team of astronomers in the discoveries of Kerberos and Styx. Both were first seen in lengthy exposures of the Pluto system taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. These images were obtained in support of NASA's New Horizons mission, which will fly past Pluto in July 2015. Kerberos was discovered in 2011 and Styx in 2012.

The names were selected based on the results of an unprecedented Internet vote that was held during February 2012. The ballot at http://plutorocks.seti.org received almost 500,000 votes, including 30,000 write-in suggestions. "I was overwhelmed by the public response to the naming campaign," said Dr. Showalter. The web site received international attention and half the votes came from outside the U.S.

Kerberos is the Greek form of the name Cerberus, which ranked second in the voting. Styx ranked third. The top vote-getter was "Vulcan," based on a suggestion from actor William Shatner of TV's Star Trek. Vulcan was the name of the home planet of Mr. Spock. The IAU gave serious consideration to this name, which happens to be shared by the Roman god of volcanoes. However, because that name has already been used in astronomy, and because the Roman god is not closely associated with Pluto, this proposal was rejected. "I am grateful to the IAU for giving such careful consideration to our suggestions," said Dr. Showalter.




We will obtain closer looks at Kerberos and Styx in 2015, when New Horizons becomes the first spacecraft to fly through the Pluto system. Said Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, "The discoveries of Kerberos and Styx add to the mysteries surrounding the formation of the Pluto system." Stern is the Principal Investigator for New Horizons. During the flyby, the spacecraft will also search for additional moons, which might be too small for the Hubble telescope to detect. Afterward, New Horizons will go on to explore the more distant Kuiper Belt.


Image credit: SETI Institute


It is great that the moons of Pluto is getting named, but it is sad that the names are still the typical names generated by those myths of either the Greeks, Romans or the Egyptians. There are so many names that could fit the bill, that one does not have to keep going to the same old standard myths. There is a site that features some 200,000 names of Asian, Native and African Gods, Goddess, demons, warriors, healers and what not; there is no reason to beat a demon like the Hydra. This is not Jason and the Argonauts.

Leonard McCoy: Damm it, man, I'm a crater, not a massif.

There are NO craters on Pluto.The images obtained by our groundbreaking HMIR processing technique of both Pluto and Charon revealed a pair of unimaginably wild objects.
Pluto has a gigantic mountain that is close to 500kms in height and Charon is not formed yet.SPACENOW captured 2 extremely active volcanoes spewing molten rock space high.
These discoveries were passed on to the IAU and if anyone will have the right to name surface features on PLUTO and Charon,this will be SPACENOW.

We at SPACENOW, after 5 years photographicaly documenting Pluto's main moon, Charon,rotate, believe that the tiny moons discovered recently around the Pluto system are a product of Charon's supervolcanoes that spew so much molten rock into space that what doesn't fall back on Charon's surface( the ejecta volume is just enormous see URL http://www.spacenow.com.br/charontation.html),gets captured in Pluto's orbit and after a while coalesce to one another (the molten rock chunks floating in space) and form the moonlets recently discovered.

Sulu would had shouted when arriving in the vicinity of Pluto:
Look here, I just saw a very "queer" movement down in the planet surface, it seems to have "a stiff" handle or tail, lol...

The scientific observations had ended on 29th April when the on-board supply of liquid helium was exhausted. But while the spacecraft is no longer operating, there is much work left to do on the data produced by the mission.

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