Pluto may have been demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, but that hasn’t stopped astronomers from studying this intriguing plutoid. NASA recently announced the discovery of a fourth moon, be it a “mini-moon,” circling the former planet. Dubbed “P4” for the time being, the hunt is on for an appropriate name.

The practice of naming planets after gods and goddesses can be traced back to the Babylonians, but it is the naming conventions of the Romans that we continue to refer to today. The International Astronomical Union has established a set of guidelines for planetary nomenclature that is monitored by a group of scientists.

Pluto’s name comes from a lovely and unlikely source. Fueled by a passion for classical mythology and astronomy, Venetia Burney, an eleven-year-old schoolgirl from Oxford, England, proposed the name Pluto to her grandfather (a librarian at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University) who in turn passed it on to astronomers at the Lowell Observatory. From a list of three prospective names, Venetia’s suggestion won out. For her achievement, Venetia’s grandfather rewarded her with five pounds.

Of the now four moons circling Pluto, Charon is the largest. The name is a derivation of the Greek Kharon – the ferryman of the dead over the river Styx. Charon is closely associated with the god Hades, whom the Romans link with Pluto.

The two remaining moons, Nix and Hydra are named in part for their initials NH, a reference to the New Horizons robotic spacecraft mission; or perhaps the names suggest the watchful eye the two keep over Pluto.

Nix is derived from the Greek Nyx, the goddess of darkness and night, and mother of Charon. The alternate spelling (replacing the y with an i) is to avoid confusion with the asteroid called 3908 Nyx.

Hydra is named for the nine-headed Lernaean beast who battled, and was eventually slain by, Hercules in Greek mythology.

In keeping with tradition, from what figure of Greek mythology should this newly discovered satellite be named? Offer your suggestion below.

Artist’s whimsical ‘Pig’ images on display

The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) January 26, 2006 | MATT WASTRADOWSKI Columbian staff writer In commercial artist Trip Gruver’s world, pigs fly and horses don life jackets to take a swim.

“Pigs Can Fly” and “Horses Can Float” are two series of Gruver’s colorful, digitally altered photographs. The Vancouver-based artist melds public domain images and cartoony animals to create what he calls “super-reality,” or natural-looking blends of extremely different elements. go to web site public domain images

Both series are on display at the North Bank Gallery, 1005 Main St., through Saturday. Artist Carrie White, who is showing her collection of paintings entitled “Beautiful,” produced and curated the show. White says Gruver’s vibrant images complement her colorful paintings. The North Bank Gallery is a cooperative run by artists.

“Pigs Can Fly” was born after one of Gruver’s commercial projects in Kuala Lumpur fell through in early 1999. Gruver created one of the images as a joke, suggesting that “perhaps we’ll do this job when pigs can fly.” His youngest children, now ages 10, 8 and 7, enjoyed the project so much, Gruver started “Horses Can Float” in 2003. Each series includes 12 images, which Gruver hopes to publish as a series of children’s books after the exhibit ends. Upcoming image sets include “Sheep Can Slide,” “Snakes Can Stand” and “Frogs Can Run.” Having his work on display is nothing new for Gruver. He says he co-produced and directed animated shorts for Sesame Street between 1982 and 1984, and was involved with commercials for such brands as Charmin, Huggies and Capri Sun.

Gruver’s most recognizable work was a series of about 20 “Michelin Baby” television commercials, which he says he designed and directed for Michelin Tires between 1990 and 1996. The half- film and half-animated spots became a hit and are now a part of pop culture. White says of the commercials’ success, “Moms really saw those tires as being safe for their babies.” Whether he’s creating Michelin babies, flying pigs or floating horses, Gruver says he doesn’t “need to change the world,” but his goals are simple: He just wants to make people smile. here public domain images

If you go What: Exhibit of Trip Gruver’s digitally altered photos including “Pigs Can Fly” and “Horses Can Float.” When: 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily through Saturday.

Cost: Free.

Where: North Bank Gallery, 1005 Main St., Vancouver. For information call 360-693-1840.

MATT WASTRADOWSKI Columbian staff writer


  1. Resuna -  February 13, 2013 - 8:50 am

    Mickey and Goofy, as per Robert Anton Wilson.

    Or start over and name them Cocytus, Caïna, Antenora, Ptolemea, Judecca, as per Larry Niven.

  2. Mythology Know-It-All -  November 27, 2012 - 3:09 pm

    I believe Pluto’s fourth moon should be named for:

    Cerberus- the 3-headed guard dog of the underworld
    Persephone – the beautiful but ill-fated wife of Hades
    Proserpina – the Roman form of Persephone
    Thanatos – the god and personification of death
    Mors – the Roman form of Thanatos
    Tartarus – the deepest, darkest part of the Underworld. Where invincible beings are imprisoned.
    Erebos – Greek god of darkness
    Styx – the river that separates the realm of the living from the realm of the deceased. Styx actually means hate. The gods would use the water from the Styx to tell if someone, mortal or immortal, was telling the truth.
    Acheron – the river in the Underworld that is the river of woe.
    Cocytus – the river of lamentation. If dead souls were not buried properly, they would drift across Cocytus’s banks for all of eternity.
    Lethe – the river of forgetfulness, in which dead souls bathe in to forget who they were during life.
    Phlegethon – the river of Hades’s fire
    Hecate – Greek goddess of darkness. It is said that she roams in darkness with her dogs and represents the terrors of the night. She is also goddess of magic and sorcery.
    Trivia – Roman form of Hecate

    There are many more options, but I don’t have time to type them all.

  3. Li Yang -  November 16, 2012 - 4:54 pm

    to all who chose ceberus that idea had just been taken for an asteroid I choose Thanantos the guardian of the doors of death

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