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]

Browse historic photos of San Francisco with Old S.F.

A photographer could spend weeks wandering around San Francisco – between the city’s dramatic natural setting, bright murals and colorful rows of Victorian homes, there’s a lot to see (and shoot).

As Gadling blogger Jessica pointed out recently, it’s also a city rich with history. In fact, photographers have been documenting this City by the Bay ever since the very first days the camera was invented. Now a website called Old S.F. lets you blend these two pursuits, displaying the city’s pleasing photography and rich history via an interactive map.

The story behind Old S.F. begins when resident Dan Vanderkam was looking at historic photos at the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection and came upon an image of his block that was identified with the wrong cross streets. The inaccuracy inspired him to start a searchable database, layered onto a Google Map of San Francisco to help others find them more easily. The rest, as they like to say, is history.

To start using Old S.F., just pull the sliders along the top to adjust the date the photos were taken (starting at 1850 and ending at 2000) and then click on one of the red dots to see images from that location. It’s a fascinating journey through some of San Francisco’s most famous (as well as its most intimate) landmarks – witness the chaos and destruction that followed the 1906 earthquake, or watch the elegant Golden Gate Bridge as its construction slowly creeps across the Bay. It’s your own personal time machine to San Francisco – and you’re holding the controls.

[Photo courtesy of army.arch]

Muni: A Noob Does Public Transportation in San Francisco

If you’re familiar with taking trains, the subway, and the bus, then you can ignore this post (or you can
read it and snicker at me). If not, and you’re going to be traveling to San Francisco any time soon, then here’s how
you use the Muni. That’s San Francisco’s city bus.

This isn’t a backhanded
way of bragging with my nose up in the air that "Oh mah gawd, I’ve hardly ever taken public
transportation." I grew up in the Midwest where the only bus I ever rode was bright yellow and went from my house
to that horrible place called "school." Now, I live in LA, and we know about public transportation in LA
(wait, we have public transportation in LA?!?!?)

So traveling in San Francisco, I learned how to take the bus.
The Bay Area public transportation system is extensive,
efficient, and very friendly to the likes of me – a newbie to buses and a traveler.

You should know where you
are and where you’re going. You can either use the Muni’s Trip Planner to type in starting and ending
to find out which line(s) to take, or you can be brilliant and use a route map or schedule. We ended up asking out hotel concierge
(we’re not very brilliant), who told us we needed to take the F line to get to the Ferry Building from Union Square. A
one-line trip is easy. If you need to use multiple lines, well, that’s the advanced class and I haven’t gotten there
yet. Okay, actually, it’s easy. That’s where the transfers will come in later.

Muni stops are
obvious. Just make sure you’re on the right side of the street and when a bus rolls up, make sure you’re getting on the
right one. Lots of buses stop fairly often at the same place. If you’re obsessive like me, you can ask every person
waiting at the stop, and confirm with the driver when he opens to door to let people on. F? Does it go to the Ferry
Building? Is this the F Line?

Muni costs $1.50 for adults. If you
have ID, then you can get the senior, youth, or disabled person discount, which means a ride costs you $0.50. You have
to have exact change to put into the money box because the drivers don’t take money or provide change. When you board,
you also get one free "transfer."
We’ll get to the transfer later.

Some of the Muni buses look like they’ve been airlifted from another time and
place. Thats because they have. Apparently, the bright orange one that we took is from Louisiana. The way it
was rattling and shaking along the rails sure felt like it was from the 1800s.

At rush hour, the Muni gets very
crowded. Actually, even when it’s the middle of the day, the Muni is crowded. Just pray that everyone used

You got on through the front door, but don’t try to exit that way otherwise you’ll be fighting against all
the riders who are trying to get on. Use the middle of back doors.

"transfer" is a slip of paper that lets you get back on any Muni before the time that’s marked on the paper.
If you’re using more than one line to get somewhere, the transfer lets you get on that second bus. If you land at your
final destination, then it gives you about an hour and a half. If you’re efficient in your shopping, sightseeing, or
whatever you’re doing in the City, you could get back to homebase for free! Unfortunately, I got carried away at the
Ferry Building Marketplace, so the transfer expired.

Oh well, $1.50 to get back is cheap.