Star Trek and Star Wars franchises unite, at least on the surface of planet Pluto’s largest moon Charon. After the historic flyby of the dwarf planet last month, NASA researchers unofficially dubbed some of Charon’s craters and valleys after fictional characters from both Sci-Fi series.
For instance, Capt. James Kirk of the starship USS Enterprise in Star Trek now has his own crater and so do his crew members Uhura, Sulu, and Mr. Spock. Moreover Darth Vader gets his own private crater along with Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.
Last month, NASA’ New Horizons spacecraft revealed that both Pluto and Charon host on their surface complex features that now need a name. Most of the nicknames however are from the Sci-Fi world, as if a squad of geeks temporarily took over NASA.
For example a couple of craters are named after two Sci-Fi authors – Clarke and Butler, while some of the rifts are named after imaginary starships including the Towing Vessel USCSS Nostromo from the first “Alien” movie.
On the other hand, most Pluto’s monikers are related to real people such as explorers and astronomers with a few exceptions – J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy monster Balrog and Lovecraft’s cosmic enthity Cthulhu.
Pluto’s heart-shaped landmass was nicknamed after Clyde Tombaugh the astronomer who first found the planet in 1930. Other landforms on the tiny planet are named after famous space missions and crafts such as the Japanese’s Hayabusa, the Soviets’ Venera mission, and the U.S.’ Voyager, Viking, and Pioneer missions.
Within the heart shaped landmass there’s a plain that is now called Sputnik Planum, after the epic Russian satellite that marked the start of the ColdWar’s space race in 1957. Other landforms in the region were called after Columbia and Challenger missions which had endedtragically.
But NASA’s New Horizons investigators didn’t resume only to space exploration-themed names. They called a cliff on Pluto after famous French undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, while Pluto’s mountain ranges were called after two famed mountaineers and explorers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who first set their foot on the top of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, in 1953.
But most of the names were chosen by the public during a project conducted by the U.S. space agency, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute.
The project was open to all people across the world this spring. NASA’s New Horizon’s team chose their favorites from the tens of thousands of proposals and submitted the names to the International Astronomical Union which now ought to approve them.
Image Source: Express.co.uk