More than two years after New Horizons flew past Pluto, becoming the first human-made object to visit the dwarf planet, numerous surface features discovered and explored by the craft now have official names as recognized by the International Astronomical Union. Meanwhile, New Horizons itself is preparing for its 1 January 2019 encounter with 2014 MU69, a distant Kuiper Belt Object – all while its control teams search for potential additional flyby targets after the MU69 encounter.
Pluto surface features receive official names:
When New Horizons made its historic flyby of Pluto on 14 July 2015, the return of spectacular images and awe inspiring landscapes immediately inspired the New Horizons team to assign names to the various regions of the dwarf planet.
As with all things in astronomy and official naming practices for celestial bodies inside the solar system, the names given to these various regions were not official.
Only the International Astronomical Union (IAU) holds the ability to officially name moons, planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, and their associated surface features.
After more than two years, on 7 September 2017, the IAU officially recognized the first set of Pluto feature names, including one named after Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, and another ...