Enlarge / Pluto’s first official surface-feature names are marked on this map, compiled from images and data gathered by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its flight through the Pluto system in 2015. (credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Ross Beyer)
On Thursday, the International Astronomical Union announced that it had officially accepted the names for 14 features on the surface of the dwarf planet Pluto. While members of the scientific team behind the New Horizons probe had used a variety of names both informally and in academic publications, there was always the chance that those names would be tweaked or changed entirely. Now, 14 of the monikers have officially entered the record.
At least one of the names has already undergone a change from the initial weeks after New Horizons’ visit.

The large, heart-shaped plane was originally termed Sputnik Planum in honor of humanity’s first orbital hardware.

But well before this new announcement, that had been changed to Sputnik Planitia in order to bring it in line with naming conventions.
Sputnik Planitia is a clear example of the overarching theme identified for naming Pluto’s features: famed explorers, human or otherwise. Other spacecraft honored include Hayabusa and Voyager, which each get a Terra, or large area of rugged terrain.

There are proposals for Pioneer, Venera, and Viking Terra as well, but these haven’t been formally accepted yet.
Read 5 remaining paragraphs

Leave a Reply