William Shatner sways Pluto moon-naming vote with Trekkie power
We've known for a while the level of William Shatner's influence in fictional outer space, but now the 81-year-old actor is using his star power to influence the real deal.
The man who played "Star Trek" captain James T. Kirk is summoning his sway with throngs of Trekkies to help get a Pluto moon named "Vulcan."
The "dwarf" planet's fourth and fifth moons are currently nameless -- simply going by "P4" and "P5" -- and the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has set out to change that. The institute, comprised of scientists, has listed out suggested moon names, but has also encouraged voters to submit write-ins.
Enter "Star Trek" fans a/k/a Trekkies.
Once Shatner proposed "Vulcan" to be a Pluto moon name, fans rallied. As of now, "Vulcan" -- a fictional planet in the "Star Trek" universe -- is winning by a landslide. "Cerberus" and "Styx" are battling it out for second place.
Once votes are tallied, they'll be submitted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for consideration.
Pluto's P5 was discovered last summer, and all of its named moons thus far have been inspired by Greek mythology with monikers like "Charon" (the ferryman of Hades), "Nix" (a beautiful Greek goddess) and "Hydra" (a nine-headed monster). Seeing as it is a "Star Trek" planet named after a Roman god of fire, "Vulcan" will definitely stray from tradition if it officially becomes a Pluto moon name. Some observers have their doubts it will even be allowed by the IAU. Universe Today writes:
Still, one wonders if the name Vulcan will make it past the gate-keepers at the IAU. The IAU has sparked controversy surrounding Pluto before, in its 2006 decision that angered 5th graders everywhere when they demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status. No solar system body currently holds the name of Vulcan, although one hypothetical one once did; the tiny fleeting world that was once thought to be interior to Mercury’s orbit. Several astronomers even claimed to witness transits of the fleeting world across the face of the Sun, and up until the late 19th century, you could still find Vulcan in many astronomy texts. While the idea of Vulcan as a planet interior to Mercury is out (think of how many telescopes, both amateur and professional, now continuously monitor the Sun daily) it’s not out of the question that a small group of asteroids less than 10 kilometres in size tentatively dubbed “Vulcanoids” may still inhabit the space interior to Mercury.
Do you want one of Pluto's moons to be named "Vulcan"? Vote here to let your moon preference be known!
Watch Super Bowl ad for 'Star Trek Into Darkness':
Follow me on Twitter (@meriahonfiah)