Pluto and Its Satellites

All five known moons, with estimated orbits for the outer satellites NASA, ESA, and L. Frattare (STScI) - http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/32/image/c/
All five known moons, with estimated orbits for the outer satellites
NASA, ESA, and L. Frattare (STScI) – http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/32/image/c/
Oionokles Painter - Hades (on the right) and Persephone (on the left). Detail from an Attic red-figure amphora, ca. 470 BC, from Italy. Public Domain courtesy of Jastrow (2006) and Wikipedia.
Oionokles Painter –
Hades (on the right) and Persephone (on the left). Detail from an Attic red-figure amphora, ca. 470 BC, from Italy. Public Domain courtesy of Jastrow (2006) and Wikipedia.

Pluto is an ancient Roman god of wealth. Wealth is associated with ore mined deep under the earth, where the land of the dead, the Underworld, is thought to lie. So, many consider Pluto to be the (Roman) god of the Underworld, and the Latin equivalent of the Greek “Hades”, who sits on a throne beside his wife, Persephone, of pomegranate eating-fame.

The planet Pluto has the following moons:

  1. Charon: Ferrying the dead to their final home is Charon, ferryman of the dead, who receives his passengers from Hermes, the herdsman of the dead. Only those who have had proper burial and the fee (an obol placed somewhere on the corpse’s face) make it across the Acheron River. All others wander, as ghosts, haunting the living.
  2. Cerberus: Cerberus is a formidable watchdog, possibly three-headed, possibly 50-headed, who keeps the dead from leaving the Underworld. Other frightening aspects of the dog may include a mane of snakes, a lion’s claws and a serpent for a tail.
  3. Styx: The main river of the Underworld is the River Styx. Rivers tend to be thought of as having a god or spirit running them. Like the Hindi Sarasvati, Styx is female, a personification, and a daughter of the cosmic Ocean.The remaining two moons of Hades are Nix and the Hydra. Nix is really Nyx, Night, but her name was changed to avoid confusion with another planetary/satellite named Nyx. Hydra is the many-headed monster the severing of whose neck results in its stump growing back, no longer as one, but two.

    Side A: Herakles, Cerberus and Eurystheus. Side B: two eagles flying and a hare. Public Domain Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol, Own work, 1 June 2007 and Wikipedia.
    Side A: Herakles, Cerberus and Eurystheus. Side B: two eagles flying and a hare. Public Domain Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol, Own work, 1 June 2007 and Wikipedia.
  4. Hydra:The connection of the Hydra is thought to be that she had nine necks when Hercules began to fight her and was symbolic of Pluto’s (former) status as the ninth planet.
  5. Nyx: Nyx is suitable to the orbit of Pluto, as the mother of the three Fates, Sleep, Death, the Spirits of Violent Death, Old Age, Strife, Pain, and more. Note that Pluto (or Hades) is not the god of Death. Death is personified as Thanatos.

 

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