Astronomers diss Trekkies, refuse to call 1 of Pluto's moons Vulcan

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Jul 3, 2013, 10:46 AM EDT (Updated)

Despite overwhelming public support, one of Pluto's recently discovered moons will not bear a Star Trek-inspired name.

Earlier this year the SETI Institute launched a public poll to determine the most popular possible names for two new moons found orbiting Pluto in 2011 and 2012, stipulating that all candidates had to be names taken from mythology. William Shatner, always in the mood to plug Trek, suggested one of the moons be called Vulcan, and the name quickly became the most popular in the online poll. By the end of the voting in February, Vulcan had garnered nearly 175,000 votes, while the second-place candidate -- Cerberus -- had 99,432. It seemed fandom had spoken, but the final decision was left to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which announced this week that Vulcan would not be one of the names chosen. Instead, the second and third most popular choices were used, and the two moons will now be known as Kerberos (Cerberus) and Styx. 

Why? Well, for one thing, the name Vulcan has been used elsewhere in astronomy before (for example, it was the name given in the 18th century to a hypothetical planet theorized to have existed between the sun and Mercury). And for another, it's not a name that's very closely associated with Pluto, mythologically speaking. Yes, they're both the names of Roman gods, but Cerberus is the name of a three-headed dog that guards the underworld (where Pluto rules), and Styx is the river that runs along the underworld's border. So, in the IAU's eyes, they were the better choices.

But hey, there's always the chance that some other cosmic body will get the Vulcan moniker one day. What do you think? Did the IAU make the right call by spurning the Trekkies in favor of mythological accuracy?

(Via BBC)