Pluto team name features after Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek

NASA’S New Horizons team have named newly discovered landmarks on Pluto’s largest moon in honour of scifi shows including Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek.

Pluto and Tardis
Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with colour data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced colour global view of Pluto, with the TARDIS then added. Pluto Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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.

Heroes remembered

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!


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By Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. He writes regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy, plus he has authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

5 thoughts on “Pluto team name features after Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek

  • 07/30/2015 at 10:42 pm
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    Somebody had better name something “Tombaugh” and “Lowell”…

  • 07/30/2015 at 11:42 pm
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    Already done.

  • 08/01/2015 at 8:07 am
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    scientists are huge nerds and i love it

  • 08/03/2015 at 11:51 am
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    Great! Now the Doctor will be able to find Gallifrey :)

  • 08/06/2015 at 9:50 am
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    This is great news! A welcome change and much better than naming a treadmill on the ISS after a biased and partisan comedian whose whole routine was mocking half of Americans, conservatives and Republicans.

    Keep politics out of the naming (and larger still, out of the space program) and keep honoring those who contributed to exploration with their inspiration – there are so many – and not those who choose to divide and offer up ridicule as their contribution.

    NASA should be ashamed (though the first idea of a Colbert toilet was funny, the treadmill naming is an insult to all who worked in NASA and all those who wanted NASA to continue to the Moon, Mars and Beyond with a mandate announced under the Bush administration. Hopefully the next president will again see the importance of space exploration and realize you cannot wait to go to space until all the problems at home are fixed. If you wait for that, you’ll never go anywhere. JFK understood that, he sanctioned the moon shot during the early days of Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and so many other issues at the time. You can’t wait for things to be better at home before you reach for the stars. Certainly other nations are not waiting. The US should not either.

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