Making their mark, far from home

The NASA New Horizons Pluto fly-by team proposed naming a dozen features on Charon, the largest of Pluto’s 5 moons, and those names, now approved by the International Astronomical Union, will be very familiar to fans of science fiction, reports Matt Williams on Universe Today.

Beamer favorite Octavia Butler is recognized with her own peak, Butler Mons.  The mighty duo who brought us 2001: A Space Odyssey, director Stanley Kubrick and author Sir Arthur Clarke, are also honored with nearby prominences (Kubrick Mons, Clarke Montes).  Numerous craters are taking on the names of fictional sf folk, so expect to see Stanislaw Lem’s fatalistic spacefarer, Pirx the Pilot, Jules Verne’s indomitable submariner, Capt. Nemo, and L. Frank Baum’s far traveling Dorothy, also named across the landscape.

Not too long ago, we did not even know Pluto had moons, much less think that one day we would be naming features on these tiny, distant dots.
Photo credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab/Southwest Research Institute

And while a moon may seem slightly less estimable as a carrier for our heroes, Charon is large enough, in comparison to Pluto, that the center of gravity of its orbit is actually outside Pluto, making it more of a binary dwarf planet than a satellite. Whatever we call it, I have a feeling that Ms. Butler and friends are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.


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