National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Multimedia
Pluto's Symbol
Pluto's Symbol (click to enlarge)
 
 

Pluto's Symbol

The symbols for the planets, Moon, and Sun (along with the symbols for the zodiac constellations) were developed for use in both astronomy and astrology. The symbol for Pluto is a monogram made up of the P and L in Pluto and also the initials of the astronomer, Percival Lowell, who predicted its discovery.

The ancient Babylonians named the five planets (or "wandering stars") that were visible to the naked eye after their gods. The ancient Greeks followed suit, and later the ancient Romans translated these names into those of the Roman deities who corresponded to the Greek gods. These are the names we know today. The outer three planets were named in modern times, but according to the same tradition and manner as the ancient names.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by the American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. The name "Lowell" was first suggested (after Percival Lowell). However, this would have broken with the established priniciple of naming planets after mythological deities. Pluto was suggested by Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old Oxford schoolgirl. The first two letters were the initials of Percival Lowell, and the god of the underworld, Pluto, was the brother of both Poseidon (Neptune) and Zeus (Jupiter). The name, like Uranus, breaks with the tradition of Roman names, because there was no Roman equivalent to the Greek. It is appropriate that the god of the underworld was chosen for this dwarf planet that was the outermost object known in the solar system at the time, and so was the most remote and in "eternal night".

Image Credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute

Credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute



Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 11 May 2011