Plutos moons — Nyx Nixxed

nix and hydra.jpg Pluto’s recently discovered moons have been named. The orginal intent was to name them Nyx and Hydra, befitting for Pluto, and matching the pantheon that includes the first moon, Charon. However a near-earth object is named Nyx already…

The moons can be seen faintly to the right as small dots, with Pluto the predominant feature from the Hubble Space Telescope photo.

The names, with roots in Greek mythology, were selected in part because their first letters, “N” and “H,” were a tribute to the New Horizons spacecraft, Stern said Wednesday.

New Horizons blasted off earlier this year on a nine-year mission to study Pluto, the last unexplored planet in the solar system. Stern is the mission’s principal investigator.

Nix was originally spelled “Nyx” by Stern’s group. Nyx is the Greek goddess of darkness and Hydra is the nine-headed serpent that guarded the underworld. Pluto is the Roman god of the underworld.

But since a near-Earth object was already called Nyx, the IAU decided to tweak the spelling to “Nix” to avoid confusion.

Stern said he wasn’t disappointed by the spelling change because the pronunciation and significance of the names were still intact.

“The joke was that they nixed Nyx,” Stern said.


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