Sad but true: The solar system lacks locales named after canine deities. Fortunately, the New Horizons mission to Pluto might remedy this tragedy. All those undiscovered terrains are going to need names, and researchers offer some recommendations in a paper published online March 29 at arXiv.org.
Aside from a theme of death — Pluto did rule the underworld after all, with Charon ferrying souls there — researchers suggested names from mythology, language and pop culture. Hills and valleys on Pluto’s surface might be labeled with the word cold in dead or dying languages. Characters from Star Trek could be memorialized in craters on the moon Charon. And those neglected dog gods would finally have a home on terrains of the moon Kerberos, itself named for the multiheaded guard dog of Hades.
Pluto experts aren’t the only ones with a say. Through April 24, NASA and the International Astronomical Union are also soliciting the public’s help in brainstorming names for features on Pluto and its moons.
Clearly planetary taxonomists soon will have plenty of work. After New Horizons flies past on July 14, a blemish on Kerberos could be named after the Scottish death-hound Cù-Sìth. Then again, Charon might end up with a crater named Scotty.