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    You Can Help Name Pluto's Newly-Discovered Moons

    Written by

    Derek Mead


    The Pluto system, as imaged by Hubble in July 2012. Via

    Despite being handed dwarf planet status in 2006, Pluto is still a fairly large body that's host to at least five moons. It's also, by virtue of being named after the the Greek god of the underworld, my pick for the most heavy metal planet, dwarf or otherwise, in our solar system. Now the astronomers that discovered the most recent pair of moons want you to name them, and the options are awesome.

    The two moons, known now simply as P4 and P5, were first imaged by Hubble in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Because those are both particularly bland, astronomers at SETI are now hosting a poll to give them something better. This is where things get bad ass: Because of Pluto's dark name, Pluto's moons have been traditionally named after underworld characters in Greek and Roman mythology. Its other three are named Charon, after the guy who ferries souls across the river Styx; Nyx, the goddess of the night; and Hydra, a "serpent-like chthonic water beast, with reptilian traits that possessed many heads and poisonous breath and blood so virulent even its tracks were deadly."

    Basically, despite being "only" a dwarf planet, Pluto and its assorted moons all make for amazing album names, and we should continue running with that. Seriously, think of the possibilities once space tourism kicks into high gear. I mean, come on: An planet system dedicated to rocking the eff out? I'm sold.

    SETI has a handy guide to the naming options so you can catch up on your mythology before voting. I think Persephone is one of the best choices for a moon, as she was kidnapped by Hades and trapped in orbit the underworld. But then there's Orpheus, a musician who entered Hades to rescue his wife Eurydice (also an option), who he then lost by not following directions, which is basically the most metal story ever. Hercules doesn't fit the theme, but Erebus, the "personofication of darkness," absolutely does, especially considering Pluto is so far from the Sun. Sleeper picks have to be Acheron, the river of pain (!!!), or Styx, because, well, Styx should have its own moon. 

    Yes, Styx isn't very metal, but it is apropos. Share your own tracks in the comments.

    Pluto itself has a pretty rad back story. The ruler of the underworld was originally known as Hades, but as the place itself began to take on that name, Pluto became lord. So while they're basically the same character in mythology, Pluto came to represent a chill version of the king of death, who was less like we envision the devil and more like the guy who's making sure you're having a good time in the afterlife. (I prefer to envision Pluto as the Little Nicky version of Satan, who's down with early Metallica only, and who's all about lava rivers and whatnot because they're rock and roll.)

    So go vote, and help turn Pluto into the most bitchin' destination in our solar system, or at least enjoy taking part in the scientific process. I mean, it's not every day you get to help name a pair of distant moons. It's even rarer that you get to give those moons kickass names. Now, time to calculate how much it would cost to ship a dozen Marshall full stacks out there.