The race is on for naming regions of Pluto.
At the moment, the far away world we know as Pluto, is about three pixels across in the photos by the New Horizons space probe. It has just recently crossed the line making it closer to Pluto than Earth is to the Sun. Pluto is about forty times farther from the Sun than Earth is, so it is easy to see that New Horizons is fast approaching its goal. As a result, our images of Pluto are about to become very clear.
The closest approach will happen in mid-July 2015, while in the month approaching that time, Pluto will be a dozen or so pixels wide in the new photographs. It won’t be that much, but we will then start to see major features — differences in colors and brightness across the surface. As the probe moves in at fourteen km a second,
the planet Pluto’s image will increase in size rapidly, details becoming clearer.
This new knowledge of the newly seen sharp, clear world will happen so rapidly that there won’t be enough time for all the new surface features to be named as they are scene. Scientists involved in the project have decided to create a list of potential names, which you can read about at SETI’s site. It’s got some good ideas, but what names should be used and which ones shouldn’t?
It is up to YOU! The New Horizons team is coordinating with the International Astronomical Union, (the official cosmic names keeper), to have the website named Our Pluto where you can go to suggest names and vote for your favorites.
There are several themes for names. These include real and fictional explorers, underworld inspired names, (Pluto is the Roman God of the underworld,) important scientists & engineers, star / space ships, and more. They note that they “welcome suggestions that come from the ancient past and the world’s many different cultures.”
Voting will end on April 7th, 2015, so we have less than a month to vote! Please hurry!