Scholastic News Online

Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine.

Available for grades 1-6, Scholastic News magazine brings high-interest current events and nonfiction to millions of classrooms each week.

Additionally, our subscribers have FREE access to Scholastic News Interactive, an exclusive online learning tool featuring digital editions, videos, interactive features, differentiated articles, and much more.

For Educators - Subscribe to Scholastic News
Scientists had already discovered three other moons orbiting Pluto, such as Charon, shown eclipsing Pluto above. (Diego Barucco/Shutterstock) Charon (above) is the largest of the five moons now known to orbit Pluto. (Diego Barucco/Shutterstock)

Naming Pluto’s Moons

Voters pick names for the dwarf planet’s newly discovered moons

By Jack Silbert | February 26, 2013

Names were selected on Monday for the two tiny moons recently found in orbit around the dwarf planet Pluto. The moons, which are only 6 to 20 miles across, had been given the temporary names P4 and P5. So the SETI Institute, which discovered the moons, asked people to help it pick names in an online poll.

More than 450,000 people cast their votes for 21 possible names. The results? Vulcan and Cerberus are the people’s choice for the new names of the tiny moons. If the International Astronomical Union approves, the names will become official.

Pluto was once considered the smallest planet in our solar system. It was also the farthest from the sun. But in 2006, the International Astronomical Union decided it didn’t meet all the requirements to be considered a planet. So Pluto was changed to a dwarf planet.

Scientists at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) found the moons with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Pluto already had three known moons, named Charon, Nix, and Hydra.


The names listed in the poll are all from Greek and Roman myths about Hades, god of the underworld. (Pluto is the Roman name for Hades.) Cerberus is the name of the three-headed hound that guards the gates of the underworld.

Vulcan, the first place winner of the poll, was not on the initial list. The actor William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the 1960s Star Trek TV series and in several later movies, suggested it for the poll.

“So what do you think of the idea of naming the two moons of Pluto Vulcan and Romulus?” Shatner wrote on Twitter.

Vulcan is a god of fire and a nephew of Hades, and Romulus is one of the two mythical founders of Rome. But both names are also from the Star Trek series, which has generations of passionate fans.

In Star Trek, Vulcan is the name of the home planet of the character Spock. After fans of the series wrote to SETI, the Institute added Vulcan to the poll. The name then won with nearly 40 percent of the vote.

This would not be the first time that the public’s ideas have been used to name celestial bodies in our solar system. In 1930, the name Pluto was picked for the planet after it was suggested by Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old from England!

  • Scholastic Store
  • The Scholastic Store  
    Sunrise Over Fallujah

    Sunrise Over Fallujah

    by Walter Dean Myers

    Operation Iraqi Freedom, that's the code name. But the young men and women in the military's Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

    In this new novel, Walter Dean Myers looks at a contemporary war with the same power and searing insight he brought to the Vietnam war of his classic, "Fallen Angels". He creates memorable characters like the book's narrator, Birdy, a young recruit from Harlem who's questioning why he even enlisted; Marla, a blond, tough-talking, wisecracking gunner; Jonesy, a guitar-playing bluesman who just wants to make it back to Georgia and open a club; and a whole unit of other young men and women and drops them incountry in Iraq, where they are supposed to help secure and stabilize Iraq and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. The young civil affairs soldiers soon find their definition of "winning" ever more elusive and their good intentions being replaced by terms like "survival" and "despair. "

    Caught in the crossfire, Myers' richly rendered characters are just beginning to understand the meaning of war in this powerful, realistic novel of our times.

    Learn more about Walter Dean Myers.

    $14.39 You save: 20%
    books;hardcover books;hardcovers | Ages 13 and Up
    Add To Cart
    Sunrise Over Fallujah
    Ages 13 and Up $14.39
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    People's Republic of China, Revised Edition

    People's Republic of China, Revised Edition

    by Kim Dramer


    •     Highly visual introduction to world geography
    •     Packed with photos, original maps, and browser-friendly sidebars
    •     Timelines compare each country's history to world history
    •     "Fast Facts" appendix highlights key information from the text
    •     "To Find Out More" listings encourage independent research
    •     Ind

      $25.90 You save: 30%
      Library Binding | Grades 5-9
      Add To Cart
      Educators Only
    People's Republic of China, Revised Edition
    Grades 5-9 $25.90
    Add To Cart
Help | Privacy Policy




Here's something interesting from

Scholastic respects your privacy. We do not retain or distribute lists of email addresses.