The historic flyby of Pluto and its moon Charon might be over, but the science is just beginning. The New Horizons spacecraft did a lot more than just snap some gorgeous pictures; over the next year a cosmic bounty of data will be streaming in from the spacecraft for our scientists to decipher.
Part of that process includes giving names to the surface features we hope to catalog and study. To do so, the New Horizons team turned to us. Through a campaign to name the surface features of Pluto and Charon called Our Pluto, the two bodies now have informal names ready to be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
The naming scheme for Pluto was based on space missions, scientists and engineers, historic explorers, and underworld beings (Pluto being the ruler of the underworld in classic Greek mythology). Charon’s informal names, however, went all-out nerd.
Charon’s naming themes were fictional explorers, travelers, spacecraft, origins, and destinations, as well as exploration artists, directors, and authors. Together these names would mark Charon’s craters, mountains, chasms, and regions of land. So guess what? There’s a Vader Crater on Charon.
All the nerd staples have made it to the Kuiper Belt. Both Vulcan and Mordor name regions, while Luke, Leia, Spock, Kirk, and Ripley get their own craters. The Tardis gets a chasm, as does Serenity. You can’t take that crevasse from me.
Let’s hope that the IAU decides to geek out with us when it finalizes names. It’s only logical.
HT: Our Pluto
IMAGES: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute