Astronomy Update: Nix & Hydra

Scientists have finally decided upon the names of Pluto's newly discovered set of moons. The names they've picked are Nix & Hydra (perhaps a little easier to remember than S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2).

Hydra is a reference to the nine-headed beast that protected the entrance to the underworld in Greek mythology.

"Nix" was originally supposed to be "Nyx", a reference to the Greek goddess of darkness, but that name had already been assigned to a near earth object. So the IAU changed the spelling to avoid confusion.

The names Nix and Hydra were selected because "N" and "H" are the first initials of a spacecraft, New Horizons, that is enroute to visit Pluto.

Mankind has visited every other planet in the solar system with the exception of Pluto. Provided the spacecraft survives the trip, it should reveal some very interesting information about this, the least known planet of the solar system. Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh and we've known about it's moon Charon since 1978. The fact that these two moons were discovered only in Late 2005 proves how very little we know about Pluto. In fact, we're not even sure if Pluto is truly a planet. The IAU will meet later this summer to determine if Pluto should maintain its designation as a planet. This has been a standing question for quite some time now and the recent discovery of a more distant, but larger Kuiper Belt object has renewed that debate.


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