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Astronomers Give Official Names to Landmarks on Pluto’s Moon Charon

April 14, 2018
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Astronomers Give Official Names to Landmarks on Pluto’s Moon Charon

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved the official names for landmarks on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. 

So, earlier this week astronomers have announced approval of different names for a dozen craters, canyons, and other surface features on Charon. The New Horizons spacecraft is the legendary probe that revealed these structures.

The names honor explorers, visionaries, pioneering journeys, and mysterious destinations.

“I am pleased that the features on Charon have been named with international spirit,” Rita Schulz, chair of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, said in a statement. Schulz worked with the New Horizons team to select the names.

The approved Charon names focus on the literature and mythology of exploration and include the following:

  • Argo Chasma — for the ship sailed by Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece, as told in the epic Latin poem “Argonautica”
  • Butler Mons – after 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 — 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 — for 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 — after 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 — for film director Stanley Kubrick, whose iconic film “2001: A Space Odyssey” tells the story of humanity’s evolution from tool-using hominids to space explorers and beyond
  • Mandjet Chasma — for one of the boats in Egyptian mythology that carried the sun god Ra across the sky each day — making it one of the earliest mythological examples of a vessel of space travel
  • Nasreddin Crater — after the protagonist in thousands of humorous folktales told throughout the Middle East, southern Europe and parts of Asia
  • Nemo Crater — for the captain of the Nautilus, the submarine in Jules Verne’s novels “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Mysterious Island.”
  • Pirx Crater — for the main character in a series of short stories by Stanislaw Lem, who travels between the Earth, the Moon and Mars
  • Revati Crater — 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 — after the adventurer who travels to the bottom of the sea in the medieval Russian epic “Bylina”

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Thumbnail image Credit: Pluto’s moon, Charon. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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