If you were to look to the heavens for a prime candidate for Hell, then the 462°C surface temperature and atmosphere of sulphuric acid would make Venus a prime candidate. But instead perhaps we will have to look further into our Solar System if we want to be surrounded by devils, demons and ghouls.
The mountains, valleys, and glaciers of Pluto will now be named after the denizens of the underworld. After putting the vote to the public, monsters, gods, and demons came out on top in deciding on names for the bizarre features of the-newly imaged icy world.
In July 2015, as New Horizons paid its famous visit to Pluto, discoveries of striking landscapes on the dwarf planet began to come in thick and fast. As astronomers explored the diverse and dynamic surface, they needed a naming system to draw on as they continued to make new exciting discoveries.
To solve the issue, the SETI Institute launched the Our Pluto project, which asked the public to vote on their favourite theme for a naming system. Competing themes included explorers, fictional vessels, and historic spacecraft. The project was overwhelmed by responses from around the world, and by the end of the vote, the decision of the public was clear – Pluto’s features would be named after underworld beings.
The most popular entries included:
- Cthulhu, the giant tentacle deity who lives deep in the ocean, created by H. P. Lovecraft
- Balrog, the fiery winged monster which battles Gandalf in J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings
- Anubis, the dog-headed god of the afterlife in ancient Egyptian mythology
Already, the Cthulhu Regio has been the name given to the dark, whale-shaped region along Pluto’s equator, west of the famously heart- shaped Tombaugh Regio, named after the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930. Similarly named features also include the Djanggawul Fossae, a ditch named after an Aboriginal Australian creation figure, and the Ala Macula, a dark spot named after the god of the underworld for the Igbo people of Nigeria.
Now, the International Astronomical Union has officially accepted the new naming system, and explorers of Pluto’s surface can hope to name and identify features on its surface with ease. We can now expect to see the names of the mountain ranges, chasms, and craters of Pluto to take a hellish turn.
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