Labeling Pluto’s Topography

pluto tallys

The public is weighing in on the names that will annotate maps of a world no one has ever seen.
As the New Horizons spacecraft closes in on Pluto and its moons, a campaign to solicit suggestions from the public, initiated by SETI Institute senior research scientist Mark Showalter, has provoked a torrent of imaginative labels for major features.  A selection of these is now being reviewed by the International Astronomical Union, and includes a broad panoply of names from myth, exploration, and even popular science fiction.
“The list of historic explorers is particularly striking for its diversity,” notes Showalter. “We think it is very important for the feature names on Pluto and its moons to reflect all the people on Planet Earth. Luckily for us, the nominations and votes we received made this easy.”
The spacecraft will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, although it will take days, weeks, or even months before the highest quality images are returned to Earth and processed.  As smaller features are charted, additional naming suggestions from the Our Pluto campaign will be used.
In the golden age of exploration, islands, coastal features, and even entire continents were named by their discoverers – generally to honor fellow officers or sponsors.  Pluto is an honorable exception to this ancient practice: the maps of this distant world will forever carry names contributed by all of humanity.