When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft speeds past Pluto on July 14, it's going to spot a lot of nooks and crannies on Pluto and its moons that we've never seen before. On Tuesday, the team submitted a list of proposed names for them.
Why can't the hills of Hydra get names that scientists think up on the spot? As charming as it is to imagine mission scientists being struck by inspiration upon the moment they spot a new feature, that's not how space naming works: Everything has to be approved by the International Astronomical Union.
A lot of the names for Plutonian features come from suggestions solicited from the public, so the New Horizons team figured they'd loop us back in.
"It's up to the IAU, but since the public was so invested in the process, we thought it was appropriate to let the public know what we're proposing," Mark Showalter, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, told NBC News.
Pluto itself will have pretty straight-laced names for its newly discovered geological features. The categories include historical space missions, spacecraft, scientists and explorers, as well as beings, locations and characters from myths pertaining to the underworld -- a throwback to Pluto, the Roman god of hell. Sputnik and Hercules are both fair game for whatever those mysterious black spots on Pluto are.
But Charon -- Pluto's largest moon -- is where things get really fun.
The New Horizons team has proposed categories including fictional travelers, destinations and vessels. That means we could have Tardis and Serenity craters! Spock and Uhura mountains! A Shire, a Mordor, and a Tattoine all on one moon.
Here's to hoping the IAU deems these names suitable. And that Charon has a lot of stuff in need of naming.