NASA is asking for the general public’s help in naming the features on the dwarf planet Pluto, and possible entrants have until Friday, April 24 to get their submissions in, Space is reporting.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make a historic fly-by of the outer planet on July 24 and is expected to snap tens of thousands of pictures of the planet and its features. NASA wants to have a library of pre-selected names to draw from once the data makes its way back to Earth, says Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.
“Due to increasing interest and the number of submissions we’re getting, it was clear we needed to extend this public outreach activity. This campaign not only reveals the public’s excitement about the mission, but helps the team, which will not have time to come up with names during the flyby, to have a ready-made library of names in advance to officially submit to the [International Astronomic Union].”
The International Astronomical Union (IAU), based in Paris, is the official agency given charge of naming things in space, according to NASA. They’ll have the final authority on which names get selected and how they’re used.
They also have some guidelines for how celestial bodies, including yet-to-be-discovered features of Pluto, can be named. IAU’s website doesn’t specify what the range of acceptable names could be; however, considering that Pluto takes its name from the Greek God of the Underworld, names related to Greek mythology may serve well. Failing that, names of scientists, engineers, and writers seem to be a good bet.
So far, the people of Earth have come up with about 40,000 good names for Plutonian features – it’s unclear how many nonsensical suggestions have been received and discarded. NASA scientist Mark Showalter, however, doesn’t think 40,000 good suggestions is a big enough pool to draw from. He also seems to echo the idea that names of writers and Greek gods might be the way to go.
“I’m impressed with the more than 40,000 thoughtful submissions. Every day brings new lessons in the world’s history, literature and mythology. Participation has come from nearly every country on Earth, so this really is a worldwide campaign.”
If you have an idea for a name for a feature on Pluto and would like to suggest it to the people who decide these things, click here. And if you have a nonsensical or witty suggestion for the names of Plutonian features, please share in the comments.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/Elenarts]