- The SETI Institute sets up an online vote to name two of Pluto's moons
- It will use the vote in proposing names to the International Astronomical Union
- Vulcan -- the Roman god of fire and home planet of Spock, of Star Trek fame -- is winning
- William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have urged Trekkies to vote for the Vulcan name
It's logical -- especially when it has the support of Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock.
Residents of Earth and other planets have until Monday to weigh in on new names for two of Pluto's moons, by voting on a website set up by the SETI Institute. Based on those votes, the Northern California scientific research organization will then propose names to the International Astronomical Union, which makes the final call.
And the runaway top pick, as of Friday evening, is Vulcan.
Roman mythology aficionados may see that as a tribute to the god of fire. But for others -- most notably, for legions of Star Trek fans -- it is better known as the home planet of Spock, the ever rational, ever loyal member of the starship Enterprise.
None other than Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the long-running Star Trek television series and string of movies, endorsed as "logical" the idea of naming one of the moons Vulcan.
Spock's former captain has been even more relentless. Kirk -- or more accurately his human facsimile, William Shatner -- started his effort by urging Trekkies to write the SETI Institute to get Vulcan added as an option.
"It apparently made a difference as they now have added it as an official name," Shatner wrote on his Facebook page on February 13. "Isn't that wonderful."
Since being added as one of 21 alternatives -- and with the help of regular online proddings by Shatner, urging fans to vote Vulcan -- Spock's home has rocketed up the official online vote tally.
It had about 140,000 votes by 6:30 p.m. ET Friday, far ahead of its next two closest competitors, Cerberus and Styx, both of which had about 80,000 votes each.
There's not much time for them to catch up, as the balloting ends at noon on February 25. But the second-place finisher has a nice consolation prize, since the SETI Institute will be proposing two names.
Whatever happens, the moons that until now were only known as P4 and P5 are already lavishing in unprecedented attention -- as evidenced by the volume of votes and the shout-outs from sci-fi legends like Shatner and Nimoy.
Earthlings didn't even know about the two orbiting spheres until 2011 and 2012, thanks to images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Naming one of Pluto's moons Vulcan isn't entirely out there. As the SETI Institute notes, Pluto's moons have long been derived from terms from Greek and Roman mythology and stories about Hades and the Underworld. Hence the inclusion of contenders such as Acheron and Sisyphus.
That said, Spock and his fellow Vulcans could use a new home. In a 2009 Star Trek film, after all, Vulcan was obliterated by a villain named Nero.
Absent another such calamity, though, Vulcan may once again be circulating in the heavens. That would give it a timelessness beyond the two hours or so of any such Star Trek film, allowing the beloved sci-fi franchise's fans to rest easy knowing that Vulcan itself might "live long and prosper" for centuries, if not eons to come.