Pluto's iconic 'heart' along with other features get first official name

Pluto's surface gets an official name from the International Astronomical Union (IAU), based on historically important people, space missions and mythical characters.

Pluto Pixabay

It is official that Pluto's 'heart', the huge heart-shaped plain on Pluto, will now be officially known from as "Tombaugh Regio", after its founder Clyde Tombaugh. It is not only Tombaugh who has been tributed with this kind gesture. Venetia Burney, a British woman, who named the planet "Pluto" in 1930 will be remembered through the 'Burney crater'.

Fourteen places in Pluto are newly named after important achievers and achievements in World History and Mythology by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features. The officials said that these are the first set of named regions of the dwarf planet. They added that many more names will be proposed later.

"The approved designations honor many people and space missions who paved the way for the historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the farthest worlds ever explored", said Alan Stern, New Horizons Principal Investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Colorado.

Rita Schulz, chairperson of the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature said, "We're very excited to approve names recognizing people of significance to Pluto and the pursuit of exploration as well as the mythology of the underworld."

Schulz said that these names highlight the importance of pushing to frontiers of discovery. "We appreciate the contribution of the general public in the form of their naming suggestions and the New Horizons team for proposing these names to us," she added.

The IAU gave a tribute to Sputnik 1, the first space satellite, by naming a large plain Sputnik Planitia. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, the first people to climb Mt. Everest, were honored by naming two mountain ranges Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes. Voyager satellites which made their way through the solar system into the interstellar space were celebrated on the 40th year of their voyage through the name Voyager Terra. Many other space missions and mythical characters are also remembered through their names in Pluto's surface.

Pluto was discovered as the ninth planet of our solar system on February 18, 1930, by Tombaugh, using photographic plates combined with a blink microscope from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. It was later derecognized as a dwarf planet in 2006 by the IAU.