Pluto's smallest moon may be named 'Vulcan'

Written by PTI | New York | Updated: Feb 27 2013, 02:38am hrs
One of the Pluto's smallest moons may be named 'Vulcan' after it gathered maximum votes in an online public contest.

The poll for suggesting names for the planet's two unnamed moons currently called P4 and P5 was swept by 'Vulcan' and 'Cerberus' as polling closed.

With a total of 450,324 total votes cast since February 11, 'Vulcan,' a Pluto moon name proposed by Star Trek's William Shatner, is the clear winner, '' reported.

"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!" wrote Shatner in a Tweet.

Cerberus came in a clear second with nearly 100,000 votes. Vulcan was a late addition to the Pluto moon name contenders, and pulled into the lead after Shatner plugged the name on Twitter.

Vulcan is not just a fictional world in the Star Trek universe.

"Vulcan is the Roman god of lava and smoke, and the nephew of Pluto," wrote SETI scientist Mark Showalter in a blog officially adding the name to the list on February 12.

"Thanks to William Shatner for the suggestion!" Showalter said.

However, the poll results do not necessarily mean that P4 and P5 will end up being called Vulcan and Cerberus. SETI is going to recommend the winning names to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) - the organisation responsible for naming the moons.

The IAU will take the results into consideration, but ultimately they have final say over what the tiny moons are named.

Pluto has five moons that astronomers currently know of. Scientists first caught sight of Pluto's largest moon Charon in 1978, but it was not until 2005 that astronomers discovered two other moons (Nix and Hydra) using the Hubble Space Telescope.

The moon P5 was discovered in 2012, also using the Hubble telescope. The moon P4 was discovered in 2011. Both P4 and P5 are only 20 to 30 km in diameter.