Help Name Pluto’s Newly Discovered Moons

Pluto is one of the little mysteries of our solar system. An icy dwarf planet far from Earth, it’s never been studied up close. The best scientists have been able to do is to examine it with the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the coolest scientific instruments ever invented.

In 2011 and 2012, they discovered two new moons around Pluto, bringing the total number of its satellites to five. Right now they’re known by the boring scientific designations S/2011 (134340) 1 and S/2012 (134340) 1. Most astronomers call them by the shorter yet equally boring nicknames P4 and P5. Now an online poll on the website Pluto Rocks!, run by Dr. Mark Showalter of the P4/P5 Discovery Team, is letting YOU help decide what to name them.

All the choices come from Greek and Roman mythology but one has a special significance for science fiction fans – Vulcan. None other than William Shatner has gotten behind the push to name one of the moons after Mr. Spock’s home world. He’s urging fans via his twitter feed to vote for Vulcan. On his own twitter feed, Leonard Nimoy said, “‘Vulcan’ is the logical choice. LLAP.” LLAP stands for “Live long and prosper,” of course.

According to the current tally, Vulcan is way ahead, with Cerberus and Styx neck-and-neck for second place. I decided to release my inner Trekkie and voted for Vulcan. Since there are two moons to be named, you get to go back and vote again. I’ll be voting for Thanatos. It’s way behind but it’s the coolest name on there after Vulcan.

P4 is Pluto’s smallest moon, measuring an estimated 8-21 miles across and orbits Pluto in about 31 days. P5 is 6-16 miles across and orbits Pluto in 20 days. Little is known about their physical makeup although it is thought they are a combination of water ice, other frozen elements and molecules, and small bits of rock.

While astronauts and space tourists won’t be getting to these destinations anytime soon, it’s nice to know that you had a part in naming them. Voting ends at noon EST on Monday, February 25.

[Photo courtesy NASA via the Hubble Space Telescope]

SkyMall Monday: Let’s Talk Apparel

As the writer of SkyMall Monday, I consider myself a public servant. If I can improve just one person’s life with every post, I consider myself successful. Today, though, I’m aiming higher. I want to make the whole world a better place by making us all better looking. This week, SkyMall Monday takes a very special look at the apparel selections available in our favorite catalog.

Sock Monkey Hat and Mittens – For when you want to tell the whole world that you’ve accepted that you will die alone surrounded by empty Ben & Jerry’s containers but you’re allergic to cats.

Pluto Was a PlanetDo you like astronomy jokes that haven’t been topical in almost three years? Then you should totally wear this to your online chat party.
Vegasize Shirt – For that very special douchebag in your life.

What Part of Y’All Shirts – What part of y’all don’t I understand? Just the part that comes before the apostrophe. And the stuff after the apostrophe. And the apostrophe. But I do understand that you’re a yokel with $17.95 less in your wallet. And by wallet, I mean the floor of your pickup truck.

American Heritage Hoodie – Have you ever wanted to wear the clothing equivalent of a Toby Keith song? Do you see the American flag and think, “Wow, that sure would make me less pear shaped?” Do you wish that a bald eagle and George W. Bush would have sex on your face? Then just get this and be done with it.

Careful Novel Shirts – Look, if you can string together even three coherent sentences, I won’t even need you to write a whole novel. I’ll gladly take my place in your cocktail napkin doodle and be damn proud of it.

Abbott & Costello Apparel – Do you like vaudeville jokes that haven’t been topical in almost 70 years? Then you should totally wear this to your volunteer job calling bingo balls at the retirement home.

Fish Whisperer Shirt – So you’re the fish whisperer, eh? You ain’t got nothing on me, homeboy.

Dog/Cat Likes Me Best Shirts – The cat likes you best? Who were the other candidates? Your unicorn figurines? Your needlepoint pillow collection? Your real doll with three working orifices? Because I find that hard to believe.

There you have it. Just imagine how smashing you’re going to look at your next cocktail party, book club meeting or plush toy tea party. No need to thank me. The looks on your friends’ and coworkers’ faces is all the thanks I need. But if you really do want to thank me, I would love to wear this to my pottery class.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.