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NASA Named Pluto Craters After "Star Trek", "Star Wars" and "Doctor Who"

Pluto's moon Charon and Mr. Spock (via NASA)

NASA's New Horizons team just gave Pluto the coolest names ever. Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a "dwarf planet" back in 2005, but it's about to be the most awesome heavenly body in the solar system. The surface of Pluto and it's moons have always been a mystery until 14 July 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft became the first to make detailed measurements and observations of Pluto and its moons.

The huge maps are being studied and, like any map, they needed names of the different places. "We need names to call things," Cathy Olkin, one of the New Horizons scientists, said. "We are working with these data. You can't just keep on saying, ‘Oh, that canyon up to the left.'" So, they made up a list of names for the different Craters, Cavus (deep-sided depression), Chasma (chasm), Colles (small knobs or hills), Dorsa (ridges), Fossa (long, narrow depression), Linea (elongated marking), Macula (dark spot), Mons (mountain), Montes (mountains), Planum (plateau or high plain), Regio (large bright or dark region), Terra (extensive land mass), Vallis (valley) of the surfaces. These names won't be official till the International Astronomical Union (IAU) ratifies them, but the team I'd pretty confident they'll be approved. Names were selected based on the voting and suggestions from the OurPluto naming campaign.

The team worked hard to make sure the names respect culture and diversity of this huge world and the names chosen fall into four major categories: space missions and spacecraft; scientists and engineers; historic explorers; and underworld locales, beings, and travelers. It's awesome that they suggested naming the heart shaped area after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the celestial body. It's heart-warming that areas are named after the Russian spacecraft Sputnik and the two space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. But, how mind-bendingly cool is it to look at Vader Crater or Serenity Chasma?

Here's the full map of Pluto and Charon

Here are the geekiest informal names on the surface of Pluto

  • Gallifrey Macula (dark spot) named after Doctor Who
  • Kirk Crater named after Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek (1977)
  • Macross Chasma (chasm) named after the anime show Macross (1982)
  • Mordor Regio (large bright or dark region) named after Lord of the Rings
  • Nemo Crater named after Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870)
  • Nostromo Chasma (chasm) named after the ship in Alien (1979)
  • Organa Crater named after Princess Leia Organa from Star Wars (1977)
  • Ripley Crater named after Ellen Ripley from Alien (1979)
  • Serenity Chasma (chasm) named after Firefly (2002)
  • Skywalker Crater named after Luke Skywalker from Star Wars (1977)
  • Spock Crater named after Mr. Spock  from Star Trek (1977)
  • Sulu Crater named after Lt. Hikaru Sulu from Star Trek (1977)
  • Tardis Chasma (chasm) named after from Doctor Who
  • Uhura Crater named after Lt. Nyota Uhura from Star Trek (1977)
  • Vader Crater named after Darth Vader from Star Wars (1977)
  • Vulcan Planum (plateau or high plain) named after Star Trek (1977)
  • Kubrick Mons named after the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • Clarke Mons named after the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke
  • Cthulhu Rego named after the H.P. Lovecraft short story "The Call of Cthulhu"
"Everything is waiting approval," Showalter told BuzzFeed Science, but "we are optimistic that the IAU will see things the way we do." The team is proud of the fact that the names are drawn from a diverse group of people and cultures around the world. But they also want to honor the work of the many that contibuted to our undertanding of the universe and led to the success of the New Horizons Mission. "We felt strongly as a mission team that we stood on the shoulders of giants," Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, told BuzzFeed Science, and that they needed to "honor the missions and the engineers and scientists who figured out how to do space exploration, because we could have never pulled off New Horizons without their experience."

Visit http://www.ourpluto.org/maps to learn more.

Which is your favorite name from the Pluto maps? What would you name a place on Pluto?

About the Author: Maurice Mitchell
I'm an avid science fiction fan, former professional graphic designer and certified blerd. After the death of my Star Wars action figures I use my powers for good and not for evil.
Visit my concept art blog: http://filmsketchr.blogspot.com

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