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Pluto's Largest Moon Gets Its First Official Feature Names

Demoted from planet status in 2006, Pluto is making its comeback! Famous explorers, adventurers and travellers, both real and fictitious, are being immortalized on the surface of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has officially assigned names to 12 separate features on the surface of Charon and we’re going to dig into their origins:

Argo Chasma: Named after the ship used by Jason and the Argonauts, the Argo. In Greek literature, Jason sailed the Argo through many hardships, such as giants and the clashing rocks, to complete his quest of retrieving the Golden Fleece.

Butler Mons: Named after author Octavia E. Butler, the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship. Her Xenogenesis trilogy focuses on the abduction and seduction of humans by an alien race.

Caleuche Chasma: The Caleuche is a conscious and sentient ghost ship from Chilean legend that sails around the island of Chiloé, crewed by those who drowned at sea.

Clarke Montes: Named after Sir Arthur C. Clarke, a science fiction author whose works, which include 2001: A Space Odyssey, focus on the exploration of space.

Dorothy Crater: In honour of Dorothy Gale, who traversed the yellow brick road, fields of sleep inducing poppies and swarms of flying monkeys to see the wonderful wizard of Oz.

Kubrick Mons: Named after Stanley Kubrick for his iconic direction of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, which takes the audience on a mind warping adventure through time and space.

Mandjet Chasma: Mandjet means “The Boat of Millions of Years” in Egyptian. In ancient times, it is said that the Egyptian sun god, Ra, rode the Mandjet across the sky to give light to the world.

Nasreddin Crater: Named after Nasreddin, a legendary folk character in the Middle East and Central Asia. He is portrayed as a wise fool, a genius simpleton or an instructive prankster, who is often depicted riding on the back of a donkey.

Nemo Crater: Named after the fictional Captain Nemo; captain of the Nautilus submarine from Jules Verne’s novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island.

Pirx Crater: Advancing from space cadet to space captain, the Sherlock Holmes-esque Pilot Pirx is the main character in Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s series of short stories.

Revati Crater: Revati is the main character in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, written around 400 BCE. It is one of the first known stories to include themes of time travel.

Sadko Crater: Sadko is a character from the Russian medieval epic, Bylina. He was a seafaring adventurer and merchant, who after disrespecting the Tsar, was forced to jump into the sea by his crew.

The New Horizons spacecraft is currently 6.16 billion kilometers from Earth according to NASA. It’s expected to continue speeding forward to reach a New Year's Day 2019 encounter with "Ultima Thule," a Kuiper Belt object orbiting about 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto. The centerpiece of New Horizons' extended mission through the Kuiper Belt, the Ultima flyby will be the farthest planetary encounter – with the most primitive object ever encountered – in spaceflight history!

And speaking of naming things, here’s a chance for you to be part of a future mission coming up very soon! This summer, NASA will be launching the first spacecraft to touch the Sun called “The Parker Solar Probe.” The probe’s mission is to learn more about how the sun works and how it affects life and technology on Earth. To raise awareness for the mission, the probe will include a memory card full of names of everyone who signs up via NASA’s website!