Do you have a couple spare minutes? You might want to try your hand at a pretty awesome endeavor: I mean, how'd you like to help name some celestial bodies? That's the opportunity you've got, at least until the deadline — NASA wants your help naming Pluto's features, and it's fielding open suggestions until April 24. Simply put, this is your big chance to immortalize your hidden creativity for place names in the deep reaches of space.
I mean, sure, it's not exactly like getting to name your own planet — somebody sign me up for that job — but it's a fun opportunity all the same. Here's the gist: in July, NASA will be conducting the first close proximity fly-by of Pluto ever, a mission for their New Horizons spacecraft. And, in anticipation of this better-than-ever glimpse of Pluto's surface (it was originally classified as a full-fledged planet, until 2006, when the International Astronomical Union downgraded it to a "dwarf planet"), NASA wants to have some new names ready for whatever they find.
The campaign was first announced in March, but according to a press release, NASA decided to extend the submissions period, with NASA Planetary Space Division director Jim Green citing "increasing interest" from the public.
Due to increasing interest and the number of submissions we’re getting, it was clear we needed to extend this public outreach activity. This campaign not only reveals the public’s excitement about the mission, but helps the team, which will not have time to come up with names during the flyby, to have a ready-made library of names in advance to officially submit to the IAU.
According to the press release, you'll be up against some stiff competition, as over 40,000 names have already been suggested. But when you think about it, that's not that staggering of a figure — you're a hell of a lot more likely to get your name approved than you are to get dealt a Royal Flush, and people totally hope for that all the time.
Of course, if you know what restrictions you're operating under, that might help matters. Be sure to check out the IAU's explainer about their naming guidelines, because you don't want to submit something that's doomed to failure — suffice to say, names with their roots in mythology seem to be the ticket. It would be kind of fantastic to look at a map of Pluto and see your name splashed across some crater somewhere, wouldn't it?
Images: Our Pluto