Wanderer, whenever you come to Pluto, be aware of the names of its mountains and plains

Pluto's first official surface-feature names are marked on this map, compiled from images and data gathered by Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft during its flight through the Pluto system in 2015. Source: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Ross Beyer

Burney crater honors Venetia Burney who as an 11-year-old schoolgirl suggested the name for the celestial body discovered in 1930

Names to fourteen geological features on the surface of Pluto have been assigned by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The names pay homage to the underworld mythology from Earth, pioneering space missions, historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in exploration, and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

It is the first set of official titles of surface features on Pluto to be approved by the IAU, the internationally recognised authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features.

The names are:
* Sputnik Planitia is a large plain named after Sputnik 1, the first space satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.
* Burney crater honors Venetia Burney (1918-2009), who as an 11-year-old schoolgirl suggested the name „Pluto“ for the celestial body discovered in 1930. Later in life she taught mathematics and economics.
* Tombaugh Regio honours Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997), the U.S. astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930 from Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
* Sleipnir Fossa is named for the powerful, eight-legged horse of Norse mythology that carried the god Odin into the underworld.
* Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes are mountain ranges honouring Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) and Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008), the Indian/Nepali Sherpa and New Zealand mountaineer who were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely.
* Al-Idrisi Montes honours Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi (1100-1165/66), a noted Arab mapmaker and geographer whose landmark work of medieval geography is sometimes translated as „The Pleasure of Him Who Longs to Cross the Horizons.“
* Djanggawul Fossae defines a network of long, narrow depressions named for the Djanggawuls, three ancestral beings in indigenous Australian mythology who travelled between the island of the dead and Australia, creating the landscape and filling it with vegetation.
* Virgil Fossae honors Virgil, one of the greatest Roman poets and Dante’s fictional guide through hell and purgatory in the Divine Comedy.
* Adlivun Cavus is a deep depression named for Adlivun, the underworld in Inuit mythology.
* Hayabusa Terra is a large land mass saluting the Japanese spacecraft and mission (2003-2010) that returned the first asteroid sample.
* Voyager Terra honours the pair of Nasa spacecraft, launched in 1977, that performed the first „grand tour“ of all four giant planets. The Voyager spacecraft are now probing the boundary between the Sun and interstellar space.
* Tartarus Dorsa is a ridge named for Tartarus, the deepest, darkest pit of the underworld in Greek mythology.
* Elliot crater recognises James Elliot (1943-2011), an MIT researcher who pioneered the use of stellar occultations to study the Solar System – leading to discoveries such as the rings of Uranus and the first detection of Pluto’s thin atmosphere.

Nasa’s New Horizons team proposed the names to the IAU following the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft. Some of the names were suggested by members of the public during the Our Pluto campaign, which was launched as a partnership between the IAU, the New Horizons project and the SETI Institute.

Color image of Pluto, photographed by the Nasa New Horizons spacecraft on 14 July 2015.

Pluto probably consists of 70% stone and 30% ice. It may have one third of the volume of the Earth’s moon. Since the IAU’s decision in 2006, it has no more the status of a planet but is only a so-called dwarf planet like many other celestial bodies recently discovered in the kuiper-belt.

International Astronomical Union

(30.10.2017, USA: 10.30.2017)