New names for Pluto and Charon

New names for Pluto and Charon

Star Trek and the Star Wars Universe come together on Pluto’s biggest moon, Charon. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, heading for the solar system’s borders, was the first to fly past Pluto last month in the history of space exploration, and its team has already assigned unofficial names to popular science fiction films to some of Charon’s craters.

The scientific team of the mission New Horizons recently published a global map of Charon. It shows that Charon now has Vader's crater (Charon’s darkest crater), as well as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia craters and even the Gallifrey region (the mysterious hidden planet from Doctor Who). James T. Kirk, the world-famous captain of the Enterprise spaceship in the original Star Trek series, also received his own crater, like his associates, Mr. Spock, Sulu and Uhuru. At the north pole of Charon you can see the huge Mordor from the “Lord of the Rings”.

The flight of the mission showed that Pluto and Charon are very complex worlds with diverse terrain: mountains, craters and canyons, so those who like to assign names to new localities will definitely like it here. Most of the proposed names for Charon's locales are taken from science fiction; Famous science-fiction authors Arthur Clarke and Octavia Butler received their craters, and the 1200-kilometer-wide crevice was named Nostromo spacecraft from the 1979 film Alien.

The names of Pluto itself are more based on reality, although even here two large, dark spots were named Barlog - a demon monster from the Universe John R. R. Tolkien, and Cthulhu - the god created by Howard Lovecraft. Pluto's famous heart - the frozen heart-shaped plains, is named after Clyde Tombo, the American astronomer who discovered this dwarf planet in the distant 1930. Other parts of Pluto are named after the pioneers of space missions, Pioneer and Voyager; as well as the Soviet Venus; Japanese Hayabuza, successfully delivered to the ground pieces of an asteroid in 2010

The Great Ice Plain in the Tombo area - Sputnik Planum, is named after the famous Soviet satellite, whose launch in 1957 marked the birth of the space age. Other parts of the relief of the heart of Pluto are named after Shuttle Challenger and Columbia, who died in 1986 and 2003, which killed 14 astronauts.

The New Horizons team assigned names to reliefs not only in honor of the pioneers of space exploration. The name of the famous French oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau adorns the rock of Pluto, and 2 famous mountain ridges of the dwarf planet are named after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who in 1953 were the first to reach the highest peak of Everest, the highest mountain on Earth.

All these names were chosen by the New Horizons team with the help of the public. NASA, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Mind) Institute in Mountain View California, took part in the project “Our Pluto”. In March-April alone, tens of thousands of names were suggested by people from all over the world. The chances for the official approval of fantastic names on Pluto are very high. MAS prefers names that have been common for a long time. Star Trek is more than 50 years old, and Star Wars is about 40. The New Horizons team chose the most favorite names from this huge database and submitted them to the IAU (International Astronomical Union), which assigns "official" names to celestial bodies and their reliefs. Vader Crater, Sputnik Planum, Nostromo and all other names are still considered provisional until official approval of the IAC. It was the International Anti-Monopoly Agency that classified distant 2006 Pluto from the classical planet to the dwarf planet.

The members of the New Horizons team have come up with a definite scheme to give names to all the reliefs on Pluto, Charon and on the four moons of the dwarf planet - on the Nyx, Hydra, Kerberus and Stix.

The craters, mountains and canyons of Charon are named according to 4 themes:

  • fictional researchers and travelers;
  • fictional literary districts;
  • literary spaceships;
  • artists, directors and authors of works.

Each of the 4 small moons has one common theme:

  • Deities of the Night - Knicks,
  • Snakes and Dragons - Hydra,
  • legendary mythological or historical dogs - Kerber,
  • river gods - Styx.

Maps with placed names will still be compiled over the next year. This is necessary in order to be able to study all photographs of the mission more thoroughly.

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