First they kicked Pluto out of the solar system planetary family, then they ignored the will of the Interweb. Oh, what will the International Astronomical Union do next?
Earlier this year, we told you that astronomers asked the public to name two newly discovered moons orbiting Pluto. Vulcan, which was suggested by William Shatner, was clearly in the lead, but that name was nixed:
Vulcan was also deemed potentially difficult because it was the name of a planet thought to exist in an orbit closer to our Sun than Mercury's. Such a world never existed, but the IAU still reckoned it was too confusing.
“Although this planet was found not to exist, the term ‘vulcanoid’ remains attached to any asteroid existing inside the orbit of Mercury, and the name Vulcan could not be accepted for one of Pluto’s satellites,” it said.
So, what did they choose as the names of the two moons? Kerberos and Styx. Kerberos (or Cerberus) is the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld in Roman mythology. Styx is the mythological river that separates the Earth and the Underworld.
But fans of Star Trek didn't come away empty-handed. Astronomers are proposing that craters on Pluto be named after Star Trek characters:
After NASA's New Horizons spacecraft gets the first up-close views of Pluto in 2015, craters, mountains and other features spotted on the dwarf planet's surface could bear the names of famous "Star Trek" characters, researchers said.
"We might have craters called Sulu and Spock and Kirk and McCoy and so on," Mark Showalter of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif., said during a Google+ Hangout today (July 2).
Shattner, however, wasn't impressed:
“What? That’s impossible! I’m going to lead a revolt,” Shatner said, when Wired told him of the outcome. “Pluto is so big and cold that it deserved to have a hot little rock running around it, named Vulcan — for fire.”
... and tweeted:
We can only imagined that Shatner cried out "Khaaaaaaann you believe it? They didn't name Pluto's new moons after Vulcan."