Following the 2015 flyby by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved the first 14 designations for features on Pluto’s surface .
They all pay tribute to the mythology of the underworld, pioneering space missions, historical pioneers who crossed new horizons in exploration, and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Some of the names were suggested by members of the public during the ‘Our Pluto’ campaign, other names had been used informally by the New Horizons science team to describe the many regions, mountain ranges, plains, valleys and craters discovered during the first first plane of the surfaces of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
The names are as follows:
- Tombaugh Regio honors Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997), the US astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930 from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
- Burney Crater honors Venetia Burney (1918-2009), who as an 11-year-old student suggested the name "Pluto" for Clyde Tombaugh’s newly discovered planet.
- Sputnik Planitia is a large plain named after Sputnik 1, the first space satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.
- Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes are mountain ranges that honor Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) and Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008), the Indian / Nepalese Sherpa and the New Zealand mountaineer who were the first to summit Everest and return successfully.
- Al-Idrisi Montes honors Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi (1100-1165 / 66), a well-known Arab cartographer and geographer whose landmark work on medieval geography is sometimes translated as "The Pleasure of One Who Longs to Cross Horizons" .
- Djanggawul Fossae defines a network of long, narrow depressions named for the Djanggawuls, three ancestral beings from indigenous Australian mythology who traveled between the Island of the Dead and Australia, creating the landscape and filling it with vegetation.
- Sleipnir Fossa is named after the mighty eight-legged horse from Norse mythology that carried the god Odin to the underworld.
- Virgil Fossae honors Virgil, one of the greatest Roman poets and Dante’s fictional guide through hell and purgatory in the Divine Comedy.
- Adlivun Cavus is a deep depression called Adlivun, the underworld in Inuit mythology.
- Hayabusa Terra is a large land mass that honors the Japanese spacecraft and its mission (2003-2010), which brought the first asteroid sample to Earth.
- Voyager Terra honors the pair of NASA spacecraft, launched in 1977, that made the first "grand tour" of the four giant planets. The Voyager probe is now exploring the boundary between the Sun and interstellar space.
- Tartarus Dorsa is a ridge called Tartarus, the deepest and darkest pit of the underworld in Greek mythology.
- Elliot Crater recognizes James Elliot (1943-2011), an MIT researcher who pioneered the use of stellar occultations to study the Solar System, leading to discoveries such as the rings of Uranus and the first detection of Pluto’s thin atmosphere. .