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Help name Pluto's new moons!

NEED TO KNOW
  • Scientists want your ideas for names of Pluto's moons
  • You can pitch your proposals on website until February 25
Pluto moons

If you ever dreamed of putting your own imprint on the universe, this might be your shot.

Astronomers at the SETI institute want you to help them name two recently discovered Pluto's moons. The two tiny moons currently have very unsexy names, "P4" and "P5." They were only discovered in the last couple of years. Their diameters are less than 20 miles, which means telescopes may not have even registered them if they were any smaller.

But just like any new discoveries, they need names. That's where you come in.

The scientists who discovered the moons need to propose new names to the International Astronomic Union, so they created Plutorocks.com, where you can pitch your ideas. You have until February 25 to come up with something.

After that, the scientists will make their two top picks that will be proposed to the IAU, where new names will be formally approved in the spring. If internet voting is not your thing, just go ahead and send your write-in vote.

The tradition suggests that anything related to Pluto should get its name from Greek mythology. After all, Pluto is the Greek ruler of the underworld. Pluto's three other moons also have names from Greek myths.

Therefore, the website already has 12 suggested Greek names that you are encouraged to pick from. However, you can still come up with something completely different, Greek-related or not.

The researchers are hoping the public campaign won't turn into a PR disaster. When NASA solicited a name for a new module on the International Space Station, comedian Stephen Colbert asked that the module be named after himself. Many people responded, and NASA eventually got some 200,000 votes in favor of the "Colbert" module.

At the end of the day, the module was named "Tranquility," but Colbert still won a consolation prize. A treadmill inside the module was named C.O.L.B.E.R.T., as in "Combined Operational Load-Bearing External External Resistance Treadmill."

But that episode may have put a wrong idea in some people's minds. The scientists behind Pluto's moons campaign are not entirely sure that some monkey business won't happen to them.  

"I suspect Minnie and Mickey will be high on the list of write-ins," joked Mark Showalter, one of the leaders of the discovery teams, when he talked to NBC News.

But if you miss this chance in Pluto's moon-naming, it's alright. Scientists believe there may be more Pluto moons yet to be discovered and we'll need to call them something, right?

In fact, you may not have to wait too long for that chance. NASA's New Horizon probe may spot them when it passes near Pluto in 2015.

 

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