NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is currently flying through the Pluto system and it is a historic flyby. But the fun actually begins once alien surfaces of Pluto system are revealed. Not only will researchers be working to understand the difficulties of what they’re seeing – they’ll need a way to name all the features that New Horizons have captured. Few days ago, New Horizons group member Mark Showalter submitted a suggested list of names for those features to the International Astronomical Union, which is accountable for the naming of things in the solar system. A few months ago, Showalter, who’s working at the SETI Institute, had opened up the procedure to a popular vote. He and his coworkers seeded a vote with well-known explorers and scientists, characters from myths, and references to science fiction; and, as was the case when a same process led to the naming of Pluto’s two smallest moons, the group considered write-in votes as well (“Sputnik,” which made the last list, was a write-in).
Then, grounded on the thousands and thousands of votes cast, Showalter and his coworkers drew up a list to send to the IAU. You can see the complete thing here – it’s wide, and covered with brilliant people, characters and mythologies from all regions of planet Earth. Among them are Star Trek’s Kirk and Spock, Star Wars’ Skywalker and Leia, and Dorothy Gale, who attempted to go to the land of Oz. Dorothy’s dog Toto is on the list too. Showalter says he’s predominantly happy by the list of historic explorers, which comprises Isabella Bird, Tenzing Norgay, and Muhammad al-Idrisi, whose geographical compilation The Pleasure of Him Who Longs to Cross the Horizons is practically too perfectly named. Showalter also mainly likes Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse from Norse myths that was also the outcome of a write-in vote.
Showalter “I had not realized how many stories there are about visiting the Underworld, spanning all the world’s cultures,”
Yes, just when we thought the Pluto system couldn’t get any more awesome, researchers had to go and offer a whole list of fascinating, beautiful names for the landscapes marking the planet and its moons.