Now’s your chance to put names on Pluto and Charon map

Washington: Public has been asked to help name features on Pluto.

On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past Pluto, offering the first close-up look at that small, distant world and its largest moon, Charon. These denizens of the outer solar system will be transformed from poorly seen, hazy bodies to tangible worlds with distinct features.

Now, the public can help decide what labels will go on the images and maps coming from the flyby. The SETI Institute has announced the launch of its “Our Pluto” campaign, which is soliciting input on how to name features on the surfaces of Pluto and Charon.

New Horizon science team member Mark Showalter said that Pluto belongs to everyone and so they want everyone to be involved in making the map of this distant world.

The science team will not have time to come up with names during the quick flyby, so they must assemble a library of names in advance. Consequently, they are inviting the public to visit the web site where they can vote for the names they think should be used to identify the most prominent features on both Pluto and Charon.

They can also suggest additional names, which must be associated with a set of broad themes related to mythology and the literature and history of exploration.

After the campaign ends on April 7, the New Horizons team will sort through the names and submit their recommendations to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU will decide how the names are used.

Currently, the best images of Pluto from the Hubble Space Telescope provide just a hint of what might be in store for the New Horizons cameras. It shows a world marked by sharp contrasts, with some areas as dark as asphalt and others as bright as snow.

Principal Investigator Alan Stern said that the Pluto flyby this summer will be a major milestone in planetary exploration and they are really looking forward to hearing the public ‘s ideas for feature naming on Pluto and Charon.

The web site also includes an extremely simple ballot to allow young children to participate.

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