Science Fiction’s Biggest Names Will Live Forever on Pluto’s Moon
Often overlooked in the vastness of space, Pluto’s tiny moon Charon has gotten ahold of some major celebrities: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia Butler. That’s because the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved names for the moon’s surface-level features, with a focus on names in science fiction and historical myth.
NASA’s New Horizons space probe has been exploring the outer reaches of the solar system since 2013. One of its main objectives was to better understand global geology and morphology of the dwarf planet and its tiny moon Charon. It’s definitively learned that Pluto and Charon are separate objects and has sent back clear images of the moon as proof.
Charon, named after the ferryman of Hades who carries the dead to the underworld in Greek mythology, will soon be host to a series of names for the surface features the probe discovered now that the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature has given the final nod.
As per the IAU press release, here are the names.
Argo Chasma is named for the ship sailed by Jason and the Argonauts, in the epic Latin poem Argonautica, during their quest for the Golden Fleece.
Butler Mons honours Octavia E. Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur fellowship, and whose Xenogenesis trilogy describes humankind’s departure from Earth and subsequent return.
Caleuche Chasma is named for the mythological ghost ship that travels the seas around the small island of Chiloé, off the coast of Chile; according to legend, the Caleuche explores the coastline collecting the dead, who then live aboard it forever.
Clarke Montes honours Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the prolific science fiction writer and futurist whose novels and short stories (including 2001: A Space Odyssey) were imaginative depictions of space exploration.
Dorothy Crater recognizes the protagonist in the series of children’s novels, by L. Frank Baum, that follows Dorothy Gale’s travels to and adventures in the magical world of Oz.
Kubrick Mons honours film director Stanley Kubrick, whose iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey tells the story of humanity’s evolution from tool-using hominids to space explorers and beyond.
Mandjet Chasma is named for one of the boats in Egyptian mythology that carried the sun god Ra (Re) across the sky each day — making it one of the earliest mythological examples of a vessel of space travel.
Nasreddin Crater is named for the protagonist in thousands of humorous folktales told throughout the Middle East, southern Europe and parts of Asia.
Nemo Crater is named for the captain of the Nautilus, the submarine in Jules Verne’s novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Mysterious Island(1874).
Pirx Crater is named for the main character in a series of short stories by Stanislaw Lem, who travels between the Earth, Moon and Mars.
Revati Crater is named for the main character in the Hindu epic narrative Mahabharata — widely regarded as the first in history (circa 400 BC) to include the concept of time travel.
Sadko Crater recognizes the adventurer who travelled to the bottom of the sea in the medieval Russian epic Bylina.
Rita Schultz, head of the IAU Working Group, said in the press release that “I am pleased that the features on Charon have been named with international spirit.”
Currently, New Horizons is around 6.16 billion kilometers from Earth, preparing for a New Year’s Day 2019 rendezvous with a mysterious object in the Kuiper Belt recently named Ultima Thule. When it gets there, with any luck will find a whole new host of features to name.