85 years after Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, NASA's "New Horizons" spacecraft is getting closer to the dwarf planet. It will be the first probe to explore Pluto, and as Arizona Public Radio's Justin Regan reports, NASA is asking the public to name some of the geological features on the dwarf planet.
Guidelines for the naming campaign are limiting names to Gods, Goddesses, creatures or heroes of the underworld from any mythology. The names of writers, scientists and engineers associated with Pluto also count, but the person must be deceased. According to Josh Bangle with Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, what the scientists will find is still a mystery.
“We can assume that there’s going to be rocky features, like mountains and dry ice beds, or rivers, at this point it’s all speculation until we get closer and we can see what’s really on the surface of Pluto,” said Bangle.
Bangle says there are currently more than 40,000 submissions from nearly every country on the planet. He hopes that some feature might be named after Flagstaff residents who were part of the Pluto story, like Clyde Tombaugh or Percival Lowell.
“It would be great if there was a Tombaugh mountain range, but we will leave that up to somebody else to submit that name for us,” said Bangle.
People can submit ideas until April 24th on NASA’s website or at Lowell Observatory.