Voting On Pluto: Name That Crater

Now’s your chance to make a bit of history by voting on Pluto. The little dwarf planet at the edge of our Solar System is due for some recognition. Through a combination of NASA and the SETI Institute, the public can get in on naming terrestrial features of this little observed rock.

Information Details on Pluto

It will work like this: NASA’s New Horizons space probe is expected to make a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. It will be the first spacecraft to do so, and astronomers want your help in naming the cracks, crevices, valleys and mountains that will show up with the detailed photography.

You can directly access SETI’s website here, called the “Our Pluto” campaign. It’s an effort to get the entire world involved in astronomy, and the website hosts a number of language options and a simplified menu for children. The voting stops on April 7th, so you have two weeks from today to get your opinions in!

As a broad theme, the team at SETI is focusing on mythology pertaining to the “Underworld” and exploration literature. The planet received its name from Pluto, the Roman god who presided over the aforementioned gloomy depths.

NASA’s part will be the heavy lifting. New Horizons was approved in 2001 and launched into space on January 19th, 2006. It had the highest launch speed ever recorded from Earth at a whopping 33,000 MPH. Making a flyby past Jupiter, it received a gravity assist and picked up an additional 9,000 MPH.

Needless to say, it’s going to make a quick flyby of Pluto.

But it will be an important one. We do not have any close up pictures of the dwarf planet, and astronomers admit to not knowing what the surface may look like. The earliest maps of Pluto did not come out until the 1980’s, and a reasonably detailed image was not acquired until Hubble.

In addition, New Horizons will also be taking pictures of Charon, Pluto’s major satellite. In keeping with the Underworld theme, Charon was a Greek mythical figure who ferried the dead across the river Styx, which divides the world of the living with Hades.

After the flyby, New Horizons is expected to go further into the Kuiper Belt (a large asteroid belt) to study objects at the absolute fringes of the Solar System.

End of Article: Here is the source for my image and NASA’s guideline. I am under the impression that based on the guidelines, my use of the image is legal. Please let me know if I am incorrect. Thanks, William

Here are the NASA Guidelines for voting on Pluto.