Legendary Band Styx Meets Styx Discoverer, Mark Showalter

Styx with Mark Showalter

Styx band Mark ShowalterStyx band members share laughs with the scientist who discovered Styx, Pluto’s moon. Left to right: Lawrence Gowan, Tommy Shaw, New Horizons’ Mark Showalter, and Todd Sucherman Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky

What do a classic rock band and Pluto’s smallest moon have in common?  Answer: they both share the same name.

The popular 70s and 80s rock band Styx met with members of NASA’s New Horizons team today, including the scientist who discovered Styx – Pluto’s faintest moon - in 2012.

The unusual convergence took place at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, mission operations center for New Horizons. The unmanned New Horizons spacecraft is on final approach to Pluto and its moons, just days away from a historic July 14 flyby that will return the first images of the mysterious dwarf planet.

Styx’s Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboard), and Todd Sucherman (drums) were treated to a tour of New Horizons mission control from mission operations manager Alice Bowman. Principal investigator Alan Stern wowed the trio with the latest images from New Horizons, while Stern and dozens of project members gathered at APL’s main auditorium for a group photo as the band’s hit “Come Sail Away” hung in the air.  

Dr. Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute, who discovered Pluto’s Styx in 2012, was “over the moon” to meet the rock and roll version of Styx, noting he’s a longtime fan of the band. Turning the tables on the celebs, Showalter autographed a poster of Pluto and its moons for the group with, “I wish Styx (had been) so easy to see from Hubble! Would have made our lives a lot easier.” 

tommy shaw points at styxThere’s Styx! Styx’s Tommy Shaw points out Pluto’s smallest moon with New Horizons team members looking on. Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The band Styx chose its name in 1972, exactly four decades before Pluto’s fifth moon was spotted. The name refers to the river in Greek mythology between Earth and the Underworld.

Styx the moon – previously known as simply P5 – was christened by the International Astronomical Union, to the disappointment of Star Trek fans, who had campaigned for “Vulcan,” shared by the Roman god for volcanoes.

Quipped Stern to the band, “When Pluto’s moon was named, it was for the river Styx, but no kidding, we really had you guys in mind too.” 

Styx Meets Styx - Legendary Band Starstruck by NASA's New Horizons Team reprinted from http://www.nasa.gov/nh/styx-meets-styx