Pluto's Features Just Got Some Seriously Metal Names From Mythology

By Rae Paoletta on at

We all know space is goth. Pluto, however, is the obvious metal baby of the solar system, shrouded in darkness at a distance of up to 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometres) from Earth. It’s only fitting that everyone’s favourite dwarf planet—named after the Roman god of the underworld—gets some seriously metal names for its mysterious regions.

Today, the International Astrononomical Union (IAU) officially announced the names for 14 of of Pluto’s geological features. Some of the names come from a campaign NASA’s New Horizons team and the IAU launched back in 2015, after the spacecraft conducted a six-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto. Though the IAU approved an underworld, mythology, explorer and scientist theme for Pluto system back in February, the first official names weren’t released until today.

Image: IAU

Whoever came up with these names clearly did their homework. A group of surface depressions has been named Djanggawul Fossae, which the IAU described as “three ancestral beings in indigenous Australian mythology who travelled between the island of the dead and Australia, creating the landscape and filling it with vegetation.” Other regions are equally badass: “Sleipnir Fossa is named for the powerful, eight-legged horse of Norse mythology that carried the god Odin into the underworld,” the IAU wrote, casually. “Virgil Fossae honours Virgil, one of the greatest Roman poets and Dante’s fictional guide through hell and purgatory in the Divine Comedy.”

The IAU’s recent announcement also formalised names previously given by scientists to certain regions, including Tombaugh Regio, the vast heart-shaped feature stretching across the dwarf planet’s equator, and Sputnik Plainita, the strikingly smooth plains of nitrogen ice that comprise the heart’s left lobe. These were both informally named after New Horizons’ flyby back in 2015, but now they’re official.

Pluto may not be a proper planet, but at least its spooky new names keep it on-brand as ever. May its metal phase never die. [IAU]