August 04, 2015 News

Pluto, Charon, Lovecraft, Tolkien and other geek culture staples we should use on new worlds

What it’s a name? Quite a lot, actually.

What it’s a name? Quite a lot, actually.

Consider the fact that now that we have highly detailed pictures of Pluto and Charon – all thanks to the historic Plut flyby undertaken by the New Horizons mission – we must go about naming all of those craters and chasms and dark spots on them.

Some first class nerd names have been proposed for a whole lot of the Pluto and Charon topography. They include references to everything from Star Trek to Star Wars, from H.P. Lovecraft’s terrifying Cthulu to J.R.R. Tolkien’s equally terrifying Balrog. Joss Whedon and the Alien franchise are in there too. And Doctor Who. Of course.

Plenty of people might scoff at the idea and point out that there is something inherently silly and undignified about such a naming effort.

But consider the fact how naming in astronomy truly works. Lay aside topography for a second, and look at the names we are forced to give other worlds. When a possible “Earth 2.0” was discovered recently by scientists, it was given the prosaic name of Kepler 452b. An fascinating recent study of the effect of cosmic wind on a galaxy had to contend with the fact that said galaxy is named NGC 4921.

There is nothing wrong with classifying celestial bodies in this fashion, certainly we would all get very confused if we didn’t introduce numbers, but when it comes to specific locales, having recognizable names really helps to have those locales, well… recognized.

And it’s not as if there aren’t plenty more nerd culture classics to choose from. Our own suggestions include:

Blade Runner


Elder Scrolls (Yeah, we know it has absolutely nothing to do with space. Neither do Tolkien’s books. But what Elder Scrolls and Tolkien’s books both represent are different worlds)

Terminator (A crater named T-800. You know you want that. Don’t deny)

Battlestar Galactica


The Fifth Element

But that’s just us. You’re free to suggest others.

Popular articles

Popular articles

Soyuz T-4 docked to the Salyut 6 space station in 1981 Space Lounge

Fireflies and saucers

ULA Atlas-V rocket moments after lift off on 22 March 2016. It launched the OrbitalATK Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. Astronautics

National legislation provides incentives for private business

The International Space Station is so far one of the biggest ever symbols of international cooperation but still excludes the likes of China and India. This picture showing three of the five spacecraft docked to the station was taken by ESA’s British Astronautics

Space stations - drivers of cooperation