NASA’S New Horizons team have named newly discovered landmarks on Pluto’s largest moon in honour of scifi shows including Doctor Who and Star Trek.
A large dark region on the moon, Charon, has been dubbed Gallifrey Macula, after the Doctor’s fictional home planet. And a neighbouring rift is now called Tardis Chasma by the team that sent their robotic probe flying past Pluto on 14 July.
A large plain on Charon has been labelled Vulcan Planum, and craters within it given the names Kirk, Spock, Sulu and Uhura, from Star Trek.
Other craters on Charon are now called Skywalker, (Leia) Organa and Vader after leading characters in Star Wars, while another has the name Ripley, from Alien. Darth Vader’s crater is suitably darker than the others.
Others to be honoured include Stanley Kubrick, who made the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
On Pluto itself, several features have been named after important spacecraft, including two hills now known as Challenger Colles and Columbia Colles in memory of the two space shuttles that were destroyed in flight, killing 14 astronauts.
A large crater is now dubbed Burney after 11-year-old English girl Venetia Burney who suggested Pluto for the distant world when it was first spotted in 1930. A mountain range is being called Hillary Montes, in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary, who led the first expedition to the summit of Everest in 1952.
The New Horizons team had earlier announced they were calling another range of mountains after his Nepalese sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.
The new names were some of the most popular choices in a public campaign organised by NASA, in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union. The IAU, which officially regulates astronomical names, must now ratify the decisions.
Now read how one astronomer announced a major cosmic discovery by writing a Doctor Who story!