The International Astronomical Union has decided Pluto’s two newly-discovered moons will be named Kerberos and Styx, despite Vulcan having been the overwhelming preference of voters in an online poll conducted by SETI.org.
Satellites in the plutonian system are named for characters and creatures in the myths surrounding Pluto (Greek Hades) and the classical Greek and Roman Underworld.
According to the IAU, while it can assign the name Kerberos without any fear Pluto’s moon will be confused with the asteroid named Cerberus, the name Vulcan cannot be used because it once was given to a hypothetical planet between Mercury and the Sun that has been proved nonexistent. They also assert, “Vulcan does not fit into the underworld mythological scheme.”
Of the 450,324 votes cast in the Pluto Rocks poll Vulcan received more than 150,000, Cerberus around 100,000, and Styx, Persephone and Orpheus each collected over 50,000.
The moons join Pluto’s previously known moons Charon, Nix and Hydra.
William Shatner, who had urged his Twitter followers to vote in the poll and write-in Vulcan, reacted to the decision with disappointment: “I think they used us for promotional purposes! They’re probably Star Wars fans!”