Confusion Over Naming of Features on Pluto

Keith's note: There as a live Facebook webcast today about the New Horizons mission. I submitted this question which was asked of New Horizons PI Alan Stern: "A variety of names are used by the New Horizons team in public and in scientific publications for features on Pluto and Charon based on images obtained during the flyby. Have any of these names been formally submitted to the IAU by the New Horizons team or NASA? Have any of these feature names been formally approved by the IAU?"

Dawn arrived at Ceres in 2015 a few months before New Horizons flew past Pluto. IAU has already approved a bunch of names on Ceres yet no names have been formally approved for Pluto. During the webcast Stern replied to my question by saying that the IAU required that a proposal for themes for naming be submitted, that "the ball is in the IAU's court", and that once that has been approved then they will submit names by the end of this year. Yet if you go to the IAU website you will see that they already have a naming theme for Pluto and its moons. So it is somewhat confusing as to why New Horizons has yet to submit any feature names.

Meanwhile all of the unofficial feature names are used in scientific papers and even on commercial products such as Pluto globes. It would certainly seem that the New Horizons team is in no hurry to send anything to the IAU due to the "dwarf planet" nomenclature hostility that has been simmering between them for years. In other words they can force the issue of their feature names being accepted (in contrast to what IAU had already established) by dragging their feet and allowing the names to become official by default. There's certainly nothing wrong with allowing the discoverers of new planetary features name those places. But if there is a process that NASA has signed up to for all of its missions - missions that it has paid for - then everyone needs to follow the same rules.

The Real Origin Of Some Notable Pluto Nomenclature, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 19, 2017 4:35 PM.

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