The universe might be a big place, but now there’s a chance for you to leave a mark.
In partnership with SETI Institute, NASA is looking for the public’s help to name features on the surfaces of both Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. That’s because, on July 14, the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft will zip past the dwarf planet, offering a close-up view of this super mysterious world. But it will move so fast that the science team monitoring the spacecraft won’t have time to come up with names for everything they see, which is why they’re relying on planet Earth to help them produce a library in advance.
That’s where you come in.
NASA created a website where you can vote for your favourite names, or nominate some of your own. The only catch is that they have to fit within one of the space agency’s pre-approved themes, which include Historic explorers and travellers, space missions and spacecrafts, scientists, authors, underworlds and underworld locales. For most options, you can also opt to select a historical example or a fictional one.
Just keep in mind you can’t use the names of people who are still alive. So no Chris Hadfields of Justin Biebers, please!
If you want to get involved, keep in mind the campaign ends on April 7. After that, the New Horizons team will sort through the names and submit their top choices to the International Astronomical Union. The IAU will then decide how they’re used.
And who knows, you might end up naming an alien colony.