The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) presented an opportunity to any individuals to provide names to the planet features of Pluto, like for example to help the astronomers name a tall mountain, or a deep crater on the Pluto's largest moon Charon. All name nominations should be submitted until midnight Friday, April 24.
NASA's New Horizons probe is going to reach the orbit of Pluto and Charon by July 14 and it will be the first encounter that could map Pluto and its satellites in a greater detail.
Once the data from this mission starts streaming in, names will be necessary, and the New Horizons Science Team will then be collaborating with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which governs the terms assigned to cosmic objects. The team has made a public announcement that anybody could nominate name ideas and vote for their own preferences.
There were more than 40,000 submissions as of April 7, according to New Horizons science team member Mark Showalter.
IAU has classified the submitted names into three groups, namely, The Mythology of the Underworld, The History of Exploration, and The Literature of Exploration.
The Mythology of the Underworld resembles the name of the planet itself, Pluto, which originated from the Roman god of the Underworld.
Pluto's name was also a product of public recommendation. It was advised by an 11-year-old schoolgirl Venetia Burney from Oxford, England to the astronomer who located the dwarf planet, Clyde Tombaugh.
Tombaugh selected the name because its first two letters reminds him of the initials of Percival Lowell, who had introduced the quest for the originally considered ninth planet from the Sun.
The Underworld theme contains beings from the Underworld, the ones who have travelled to the Underworld, and names for the Underworld and its settings throughout human cultures.
Through the theme of The History of Exploration, the team wants to remember historic explorers, scientists and engineers, and space vehicles.
The Literature of Exploration will be allotted for fictional explorers, fictional points of origin and destinations, fictional ships of exploration, and the artists and authors behind them.
In the traditional nine planets, Pluto will be the last one to be imaged by an orbiting spacecraft. Pluto is a large and comparatively nearby member of the Kuiper Belt, which is a region of dwarf planets beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Photo: NASA Blueshift | Flickr