Pluto mission nears planet; discovery begins July 14

Mission To Name Pluto And Her Moons Inspires Amazing Names: Spock, Balrog, Tardis, And Leia

The New Horizons mission is soon going to reveal to the world a set of splotches, specks, nooks, valleys, and bumps on Pluto — and all of them need a name.

So far, the options are drawing inspiration from mythology, Star Wars, The Lord of The Rings, H.P. Lovecraft, and Doctor Who. Which means the planet and her moons could have a crater named Balrog or a mountain named Skywalker.

Scientists expect to discover lots of craters, mountains, and valleys on Pluto and moons Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra when the probe nears the planet in a week. So the mission to name them all enlisted the public in an online survey.

And boy, did the public deliver.

About 60,000 fill-in ballots and 15,000 write-in names were proposed through the OurPluto online survey, NBC News reported. The SETI Institute organized the naming mission, and the team behind the New Horizons mission has drafted a list of proposed names.

These will have to be rubber stamped by the International Astronomical Union, which approves all space naming, The Washington Post added. SETI Institute Planetary Scientist Mark Showalter, who spear-headed the naming mission, said team may seek preapproval.

The names are incredible, inspired by fictional travelers, destinations, vessels, and creatures. For the most part, these types of names will be relegated to her moons, while Pluto herself will get standard names for her geology, inspired by historic space missions, spacecraft, scientists and explorers, beings, locations, and characters from mythology.

Here are some of the options.

  • On Pluto — Cthulhu, Virgil, Sputnik
  • Charon, her largest moon — Kirk, Dorothy (of the Oz), Mordor, Tardis, Madeline L’Engle
  • Styx — River gods Eqqo, Hapi, Mbongo
  • Nix — Night deities Chandra, Scottish goblin Bodach, moon goddess Metsaka
  • Kerberos — Legendary dogs, like Laika and Toto
  • Hydra — Serpents and dragons, like Smaug and Jabberwock

This fun naming mission comes as New Horizon nears Pluto for a historic discovery mission, National Geographic reported. On July 14, the probe will zero in on the planet to gather data. Its mission: To learn as much as it can in nine days about Pluto and its moons from a distance of 8,00 miles flying at 30,000 mph.

So far, the probe has beamed back some tantalizing photos, hinting at fascinating revelations about the planet, said Principal investigator Alan Stern.

“We came a long way to explore Pluto, and all the early indications are, Pluto’s not gonna let us down. This object is unlike any other that we have ever observed.”

Scientists are already wondering about a strange dark patch of “mystery material” around its equator. No word yet on whether that is going to get a name.

[Photo Courtesy Twitter]

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