Name features on Pluto and Charon


MOUNTAIN VIEW – On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past Pluto, offering the first close-up look at that small, distant world and its largest moon, Charon.  These denizens of the outer solar system will be transformed from poorly seen, hazy bodies to tangible worlds with distinct features.

Now, the public can help decide what labels will go on the images and maps coming from the flyby.  The SETI Institute has announced the launch of its “Our Pluto” campaign, which is soliciting input on how to name features on the surfaces of Pluto and Charon. 

“Pluto belongs to everyone,” says New Horizon science team member Mark Showalter, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute.  “So we want everyone to be involved in making the map of this distant world.” 

The science team will not have time to come up with names during the quick flyby, so they must assemble a library of names in advance.  Consequently, they are inviting the public to visit the web site  where they can vote for the names they think should be used to identify the most prominent features on both Pluto and Charon. They can also suggest additional names.  These must be associated with a set of broad themes related to mythology and the literature and history of exploration.

After the campaign ends on April 7, the New Horizons team will sort through the names and submit their recommendations to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU will decide how the names are used.

Currently, the best images of Pluto from the Hubble Space Telescope provide just a hint of what might be in store for the New Horizons cameras. It shows a world marked by sharp contrasts, with some areas as dark as asphalt and others as bright as snow.

“The Pluto flyby this summer will be a major milestone in planetary exploration,” said Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of the New Horizons project. “We are really looking forward to hearing the public's ideas for feature naming on Pluto and Charon.”

Showalter led the teams that used the Hubble Space Telescope to discover the two smallest known moons of Pluto, Kerberos and Styx. Those satellites were also named via a public campaign.

“The difference is that last time we only needed two names, whereas now we could need more than a hundred,” Showalter notes. “We are eager to gather recommendations from people all over the world.” The web site also includes an extremely simple ballot to allow young children to participate.

More information about the New Horizons mission:

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What's Up with the Astro League March 2015

The latest ALCor newsletter is now available.  This issues includes:
  • Tribute to Don Parker.
  • Call for candidates for League Secretary position
  • Ordering information for eclipse glasses from the League--available now
  • Reminder about April emailing of ballots and annual dues statement
  • Reminder about the monthly-updated What's Up Doc? observing tool
  • Global Astronomy Month reminder for April
  • League Award deadline reminders
  • Information sheet about Astrocon 2017, scheduled the week before the total solar eclipse in Casper, Wyoming

Download in PDF format (2 M-Bytes)

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What's Up Doc


~~If you are working on an Astronomical League Observing Program, Aaron Clevenson ( has provided two tools that might be of use to you.  What's Up Doc? and What's Up Tonight, Doc? 

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ALCon 2015 Online Registration is now available


Online conference registration is now available at the ALCon 2015 website at

Tour registration is available at

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The Astronomical League's Youth Awards 2015 — Prepare Now!


Wouldn't it be great to be young again and to be entering amateur astronomy! Now is the time to start considering the Astronomical League's youth awards for 2015: the National Young Astronomer Award (NYAA), the three Jack Horkheimer Youth Service Awards, and the Horkheimer/O’Meara Journalism Award.

If you know a young person who has been involved in an astronomy-related research project — either of his or her own doing or though an educational institution — please consider nominating that person for the National Young Astronomer Award. He or she must be between 14 and 19 years of age.

If you know a League member, 18 years or younger, who has brought amateur astronomy to your club or to the public through outreach, presentations, writing, or observing, please consider nominating that person for one of the four Horkheimer Service Awards. One of these awards is more specialized than the others — the Horheimer/O'Meara Journalism Award. It requires a person who is 8 to 14 years of age to compose a 300 to 500 word essay on any science related topic. 

Since the deadlines for the National Young Astronomer Award is January 31, 2015 and for the Horkheimer Awards is March 31, 2015, now is the time for potential candidates to work on their projects and to participate in various astronomy activities.

If you are a club officer, nominate them. If you don't, no one else will! Complete information about each award can be found at

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Library Telescope Program

Put telescopes in the hands of those who are most interested: The Library Telescope Program

Library Program TelescopeMany clubs have loaner scopes for their members. The New Hampshire Astronomical  Society (, led by its member Marc Stowbridge, takes a slightly different path by developing a “Library Loaner Scope” program where low cost, quality  telescopes can be checked out by library patrons in the same manner as they do books.  The NHAS selects a modified Orion StarBlast 4.5 inch Dobsonian reflector as their telescope of choice. This thirteen pound instrument is easy to use, is very portable, and comes with quality optics. Novice observers can easily obtain their first views of the moon and its craters, Jupiter and its Galilean satellites, and Saturn and its rings. The brighter deep sky objects can be seen, as well. To help prevent unauthorized fingers from meddling with the optical collimation, access to the primary mirror is physically restricted. A Celestron 8 mm - 24 mm zoom eyepiece is semi-permanently installed to prevent the inevitable loss of removable eyepieces. Full zoom (60x) splits the Trapezium stars in the Orion Nebula, while the lowest power (20x) and widest field (2º) captures the entire nebula.


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