Students help name 5 of Jupiter’s newly discovered moons

The monikers, in keeping with tradition, come from Greek and Roman mythology


Jupiter, shown in an image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft, has 79 moons. Five recently spotted ones have just gotten their official names.

JPL-Caltech/NASA, SwRI, MSSS, Kevin M. Gill

Meet the newly discovered moons of Jupiter. After a public contest, five of them finally have official astronomical names. The International Astronomical Union announced the names on August 26.

Scott Sheppard is a planetary scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. He reported the discovery of these five moons in July 2018 along with seven others. He and his colleagues spotted the Jovian satellites while searching for Planet Nine. Planet Nine is a suspected planet that may be orbiting beyond Neptune. To date, no one has seen it.

The team solicited candidate names for the moons on Twitter. There were some rules. Most notably, each of Jupiter’s 79 known moons must be named for descendants or consorts of the god Jupiter (from Roman mythology), or Zeus (in Greek myths). But that didn’t stop people from suggesting the names of beloved pets. And, somewhat inevitably, someone suggested Moony McMoonface.

Here are the winners:

Pandia: She’s the goddess of the full moon. Pandia is the daughter of Zeus and the moon goddess Selene. One group that entered this name in the contest was the astronomy club of the Lanivet Community Primary School in Bodmin, England. The school’s mascot is a panda.

Ersa: Sister of Pandia, Ersa is the goddess of dew. Several people suggested this name. They included 4-year-old moon expert Walter. He got the judges’ attention with a song listing the largest moons of the solar system in order of their size.

Eirene: The goddess of peace, Eirene is the daughter of Zeus and Themis, a Greek Titaness who personifies divine order, justice and law. Among the tweets that suggested this name was one submitted on behalf of a mythology-loving 10-year-old.

Philophrosyne: Philophrosyne is the spirit of welcome and kindness. She’s a granddaughter of Zeus. Among the submitters of this name was an 11th-grade history class.

Eupheme: Sister of Philophrosyne, Eupheme is the spirit of praise and good omens.

Lisa Grossman is the astronomy writer at Science News. She has a degree in astronomy from Cornell University and a graduate certificate in science writing from University of California, Santa Cruz. She lives near Boston.

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