Pluto’s big moon may host Doctor Who names in space!

This month’s New Horizons flyby of dwarf planet Pluto and its biggest moon Charon left a wealth of incredible data in its wake, with unforgettable pictures of geographic features such as the now famous giant “heart” on Pluto.

But the highly detailed pictures gave the New Horizons team a welcome problem: What do they call all those craters, plains and mountain ranges?

Now, thanks to maps the New Horizons team plans to submit to the International Astronomical Union (the official governing body for names of celestial objects), we know the answer.

Their names are drawn from movies, TV shows and books sure to gladden every geek’s heart — including Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly, Alien, Lord of the Rings and the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Spock, Kirk, Sulu and Uhura craters dot the Vulcan plane. Spock, Kirk, Sulu and Uhura craters dot the Vulcan plane. The Tardis chasma crosses the Gallifrey macula — named for the Doctor’s vessel and home planet respectively. Which could make for an awkward moment if the Time Lord ever lands there.


Bipolar planetary nebula PN Hb 12

This image shows an example of a bipolar planetary nebula known as PN Hb 12 — popularly known as Hubble 12 — in the constellation of Cassiopeia. The striking shape of this nebula, reminiscent of a butterfly or an hourglass, was formed as a Sun-like star approached the end of its life and puffed its outer layers into the surrounding space. For bipolar nebulae, this material is funnelled towards the poles of the ageing star, creating the distinctive double-lobed structure.

Credit: NASA, ESA
Acknowledgement: Josh Barrington


Mostly Mute Monday: The Galaxy’s Fireworks

“A towering sight in the night sky, the Milky Way appears as nothing more than a diffuse band of stars and dark dust lanes in visible light, littered by the occasional star cluster or nebulous object. But in the infrared, the true complexity of the structure of new star-forming regions, neutral gas, young clusters and stellar remnants are revealed in ways visible light could never hope to match.”

Looking in infrared light, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) reveals the intricate structure behind many objects that are entirely invisible to even the world’s most powerful visible light telescopes, showcasing the dynamics of the neutral, warm gas that’s invisible to optical instruments. WISE surveyed the entire sky, lasting a mere 13 months before running out of coolant, with the information showcased in this colossal mosaic covering less than 3% of what’s available.

The Apollo 11 crew await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer. All four men are wearing Biological Isolation Garments (BIG). The Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia,” with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. splashed down at 11:49 a.m. (CDT), July 24, 1969, about 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii and only 12 nautical miles from the USS Hornet.