Last summer, scientists announced they had discovered a dozen new moons orbiting Jupiter. But now comes the hard part: naming them.
The researchers announced that they want some help with that task, asking astronomy buffs to submit their name suggestions for five of the new discoveries. If you're up to the challenge, here's what's involved.
First, be aware that it's not a free-for-all. The names need to meet certain constraints in order to be approved by the International Astronomical Union, which oversees all names for objects in space and features on their surfaces.
Jupiter's moons are all named for characters from Greek and Roman mythology who are either descended from or lovers of the chief god of the Pantheon, Zeus/Jupiter. That's not necessarily particularly limiting; in both sets of mythologies that particular god is notorious for his aggressive sexual activity.
But moon names in the Jovian system are also structured based on the direction in which they orbit the gas giant. Two of the new moons orbit in the same direction as the planet rotates, which requires a name that ends in -a; the other three travel in the opposite direction and will be given names that end in -e.
There are other rules as well: For example, names can't be too similar to ones already in use for moons or asteroids, and they can't be offensive to any culture.
Once you've settled on the names you'd like to nominate, it's time to take to Twitter to explain your choice in a single tweet to @JupiterLunacy tagged #NameJupitersMoons. The deadline for submissions is April 15.
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