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Landmarks on Pluto's Moon Charon Get Their First Official Names
The first official feature names on Charon range from Middle Eastern folklore to "2001: A Space Odyssey.
Credit: International Astronomical Union

Pluto's largest moon, Charon, has received its first official feature names. A dozen of the moon's landmarks have been given names honoring the spirit of human exploration. The names reflect travelers, explorers, scientists, pioneering journeys and mysterious destinations, recognizing tales of adventures from around the world.

"I am pleased that the features on Charon have been named with international spirit," Rita Schulz, chair of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, said in a statement. Schulz worked with the New Horizons team to select the names. 

According to the IAU, "The New Horizons team was instrumental in moving the new names through approval." [Fly Through Pluto Moon Charon's Giant Canyon in Spectacular New Video]

The team gathered many of the names through the "Our Pluto" online public naming campaign in 2015, and have since referred to many of the same features unofficially.

The approved Charon names focus on the literature and mythology of exploration. According to the IAU release, they are:

  • Argo Chasma is named for the ship sailed by Jason and the Argonauts, in the epic Latin poem Argonautica, during their quest for the Golden Fleece.
  • Butler Mons honors Octavia E. Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur fellowship, and whose Xenogenesis trilogy describes humankind's departure from Earth and subsequent return.
  • Caleuche Chasma is named for the mythological ghost ship that travels the seas around the small island of Chiloé, off the coast of Chile; according to legend, the Caleuche explores the coastline collecting the dead, who then live aboard it forever.
  • Clarke Montes honors Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the prolific science fiction writer and futurist whose novels and short stories (including "2001: A Space Odyssey") were imaginative depictions of space exploration.
  • Dorothy Crater recognizes the protagonist in the series of children's novels, by L. Frank Baum, that follows Dorothy Gale's travels to and adventures in the magical world of Oz.
  • Kubrick Mons honors film director Stanley Kubrick, whose iconic "2001: A Space Odyssey" tells the story of humanity's evolution from tool-using hominids to space explorers and beyond.
  • Mandjet Chasma is named for one of the boats in Egyptian mythology that carried the sun god Ra (Re) across the sky each day – making it one of the earliest mythological examples of a space travel vessel.
  • Nasreddin Crater is named for the protagonist in thousands of humorous folktales told throughout the Middle East, southern Europe and parts of Asia.
  • Nemo Crater is named for the captain of the Nautilus, the submarine in Jules Verne's novels "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (1870) and "The Mysterious Island" (1874).
  • Pirx Crater is named for the main character in a series of short stories by Stanislaw Lem, who travels between the Earth, moon and Mars.
  • Revati Crater is named for the main character in the Hindu epic narrative& Mahabharata – widely regarded as the first in history (circa 400 BC) to include the concept of time travel.
  • Sadko Crater recognizes the adventurer who traveled to the bottom of the sea in the medieval Russian epic Bylina.

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