PLUTO — Now is your chance to help name part of Pluto and its companion Charon.
As the New Horizons spacecraft approaches Pluto for its first flyby, NASA is asking for help to name the dwarf planet’s features. Anyone can vote for their favorite names — or even nominate different ones — online until midnight Friday.
“This campaign not only reveals the public's excitement about the mission, but helps the team, which will not have time to come up with names during the flyby, to have a ready-made library of names in advance to officially submit to the International Astronomical Union,” NASA planetary Science Division director Jim Green said in a statement.
The July 14 encounter will be the first flyby of the dwarf planet and its satellites, meaning scientists will be able to see Pluto in greater detail than ever before.
NASA is partnering with the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for naming celestial bodies, for the campaign. The IAU will determine how names recommended by NASA are used.
There were more than 40,000 submissions as of April 7, according to New Horizons science team member Mark Showalter. Online name ballots are broken down into the categories of history of exploration, literature of exploration and mythology of the underworld.
Names on the ballots range from real-life explorers like Leif Erikson to the fictional Indiana Jones and Flash Gordon. The underworld ballot features names from international mythology.
There is also the option to nominate a new name online. However, all names must meet the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature guidelines. For example, features can’t be named after living persons.
Nominations that are approved will be added to the online ballots, according to NASA.