Science & Environment

Vulcan tops vote to name Pluto moons

Pluto moons Image copyright NASA
Image caption Three of Pluto's five known moons currently have names

"Vulcan" has topped a public vote to name two recently discovered moons of Pluto.

The choice will delight Star Trek fans; Vulcan is the home planet of Spock, science officer on the starship Enterprise.

The name had originally been suggested by William Shatner, the actor who portrayed Captain James T Kirk in the Star Trek TV series and films.

More than 450,000 people voted in an online poll run by the Seti institute.

The California-based organisation - which searches for intelligent life in the Universe - and Dr Mark Showalter, who led the teams that discovered the two moons, offered voters a choice of 21 possible names.

Currently, Pluto's two newly discovered moons - spotted in 2011 and 2012 - are known as P4 and P5.

Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock, had previously tweeted that Vulcan was the "logical choice".

The vote ended on Monday, with Vulcan finishing in the lead by a margin of about 50,000 votes. The second-most-popular choice was Cerberus, the name of the multiple-headed dog that guards the gates to the Underworld in Greek myth.

Both of these names will be taken to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the body responsible for naming planetary objects.

In 2006, it held a controversial vote that resulted in Pluto being stripped of its status as a planet. The icy body was subsequently reclassified as a "dwarf planet".

And more disappointment could lie ahead.

A spokesman for the IAU said the organisation typically did not involve the public in decisions like this - and said it would be astronomers, not Star Trek fans, that would have the final say on the matter.

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