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Pluto moon naming contest: ‘Vulcan’ is the frontrunner

Samantha StainburnGlobalPost.com

More than 140,000 members of the public have voted to name one of Pluto’s newly-discovered moons ‘Vulcan,’ PC Magazine reported.

That makes it far and away the frontrunner in a naming contest organized by the SETI Institute.

The SETI Institute has said it will consider the public’s wishes when it proposes names for the two new moons, currently called P4 and P5, to the International Astronomical Union. The moons were discovered in 2011 and 2012.

Pluto was named after the god of the underworld in Roman mythology, and scientists have named its moons after other figures in the underworld. Pluto’s other moons are called Charon (for the boatsman who ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx into the underworld), Nix (for the goddess of the night) and Hydra (for a monster who guarded one of entrances to the underworld).

Vulcan (for the Roman god of fire and smoke) is beating out 20 proposed names, including Elysium, Orpheus and Hypnos.

Vulcan has got a boost from actor William Shatner, who has been pestering his 1.3 million Twitter followers to cast their votes for the name, which was also the name of an extraterrestrial species in the television series Star Trek.

The naming contest ends at noon EST on Feb. 25.