This July the New Horizons spacecraft will perform its long-awaited flyby through the Pluto system, capturing unprecedented data and images of the distant icy planet and its companion satellites Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx. The first two worlds, in particular, will have their surfaces seen in high-resolution, allowing scientists to observe and map their features for the very first time. But as landforms come into view – craters, mountains, scarps, plains, and who knows what else – what will they be named?
This is where YOU come in.
The SETI Institute and New Horizons science team member Mark Showalter have put together a voting process by which the public can select which names may most likely be chosen for feature and place names on Pluto and its moons. You can pick your favorite names from three ballots that cover themes of history, exploration, and mythology, or you can nominate your own name idea (but it still has to fit within those themes AND not already be in use elsewhere OR refer to a currently-living person. Sorry, rules is rules.)
Once all the votes are tallied up, the most popular names will be put at the top of the list for the IAU to pull from once names are needed (and they will be!)
You can check out a voter’s guide here with ideas that conform to the IAU’s pre-selected conventions for names at Pluto, and then mark your favorite choices on each of the three ballots: History, Literature, and Mythology.
There’s even a simplified version for kids (and/or those who prefer an illustrated ballot.)
The process closes on April 7, so put your suggestions in today! (Be sure to read through the rules first, too.) What other chance will you get to help officially map a world three billion miles away?
Source: SETI / OurPluto.org
UPDATE 4/6/2015: The campaign has been extended by NASA until April 24 due to the large number of votes and nominations still being received from around the world. But even though there’s still time, put your votes in soon!
“Due to increasing interest and the number of submissions we’re getting, it was clear we needed to extend this public outreach activity. This campaign not only reveals the public’s excitement about the mission, but helps the team, which will not have time to come up with names during the flyby, to have a ready-made library of names in advance to officially submit to the IAU.”
– Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division