ANALYSIS: Pluto at 82: A ‘Chihuahua' Among Planets?
The SETI Pluto moons naming poll was wildly successful, especially after William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain James T. Kirk, suggested one of the moons should be named "Vulcan" after his Star Trek second in command Spock's homeworld.
Shatner's celebrity threw the poll into the limelight, ensuring a win for "Vulcan." Although arguments were made for the suitability of the name, it didn't quite fit. The astronomical naming convention has seen all the bodies in the Plutonian system named after mythological Greek and Roman deities of the Underworld.
"I was overwhelmed by the public response to the naming campaign," said Mark Showalter, Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute. Nearly 500,000 votes were cast and 30,000 write-ins for name suggestions were received.
Hades, god of the underworld, who was also known as "Plouton" (meaning "Rich One"), was Latinized by the Romans to, simply, Pluto. In a nice little tidbit of astronomical history, the ninth planetary body from the sun was given that name by 11-year old schoolgirl Venetia Burney shortly after the small world was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in 1930. The mythological name for the dark and cold world started a tradition that has seen Pluto's biggest satellite named after Charon (the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron) and two smaller moons Nix (is the Greek goddess of the night) and Hydra (the many-headed serpent).