Space, as we’ve all come to know, is the final frontier. But one astral body may soon become just a less unfamiliar, if luck – and popular opinion – holds true. An online poll to name a moon that orbits one-time planet Pluto may result in said moon becoming known as “Vulcan,” after the home planet of Star Trek‘s Spock.
The SETI Institute has been hosting an online ballot to name two recently-discovered moons of Pluto since February 11 at the Pluto Rocks website. Since their discovery, the two moons have been temporarily named “P4” and “P5.”
“By tradition, the names of Pluto’s moons come from Greek and Roman mythology, and are related to the ancient tales about Hades and the Underworld,” says Mark Showalter of the P4/P5 Discovery Team at the Institute. Which, of course, makes “Vulcan” an obvious option for selection since Vulcan is the nephew of Pluto in the ancient mythologies. Other names suggested by the SETI team include Acheron, Cerberus, Hercules, and Orpheus (a full list names can be found here), although Showalter is open to other suggestions. “Alternatively, if you have a great idea for a name that we have overlooked, let us know,” he wrote. “If you can make a good case for it, we will add it to the list.”
As of the beginning of this week, more than 30,000 people had responded with their choices and suggestions – including one William Shatner, who offered up two suggestions from his time with the Trek television series and movie franchise: Romulus – origin planet of the show’s villainous Romulans – and Spock’s homeworld of Vulcan. As Showalter responded to the actor, only one of those was actually available. “Romulus has a bit of a problem because it is already the name of a moon,” he explained, with both Romulus, “along with his brother Remus, are the names of the moons of asteroid 87 Silvia.”
As of writing, Vulcan is holding up well in the final voting, becoming the most popular suggestion with more than 120,000 votes. The second most popular suggestion is Cerberus, with 80,000 votes, followed by Styx, Persephone and Orpheus, which all score firmly in the 40,000 – 80,000 range.
Shatner is doing his part to encourage the success of his suggestion, reminding fans to vote once a day for Vulcan via his Twitter feed. Not all of those fans are necessarily onboard with the latest mission, however; Christine Valada, Trek fan, lawyer, and four-time Jeopardy champion, has suggested that “Vulcan should be reserved for a planet worthy of such an auspicious genesis. Not moons of a devoted planet,” scoring points for dropping a “genesis” reference in there for good measure.
Voting closes at noon Eastern on Monday.
- Discovery of 139 new minor planets in our solar system may help find Planet Nine
- Having learned nothing, Space Force turns to the internet to name its members
- Planet-hunting satellite spots rare hot Neptune on border of Neptune desert
- Tiny dwarf planet discovered in our solar system is one-fifth the size of Pluto
- Is Pluto a planet? NASA administrator and Brian May reignite the debate