Ironically, Disney’s ‘Pluto’ fits perfectly in the heart-shaped region on the dwarf planet, however, it is being named after its farm boy turned astronomer pioneer discoverer. The area will now be informally known as “Tombaugh Regio” — regio being latin for region — Nasa announced during its first press conference following the historic Pluto flyby. The heart-shaped bit of Pluto has become an iconic symbol of the planet, since it was first seen in pictures sent back by the New Horizons craft. Clyde Tombaugh has already been honored previously when his ashes were sent in space on board the aircraft – making him the first human whose ashes have gone out of the solar system.
Pluto was identified in 1930 by US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh using a 13 inch photographic telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Tombaugh to study the night skies around the early 20th century, building his own telescopes from retired farm equipment – after a storm wrecked his family’s crops making him unable to attend university.
His children have been actively involved in the mission, and were present at the event yesterday when Nasa announced the region’s new informal name.
The first detailed pictures of planet came in recent weeks, and finally settled the exact shape of the bright patch on its surface, as well as showing the surprising Mars-like reddish hue. Scientists have long known about the existence of the patch — and seen that it has been getting gradually less bright — but didn’t have detailed enough pictures to be able to say what shape it was.
It wasn’t the only place to be given a new name during the conference. Scientists have previously announced that they had taken to calling a large dark patch on Charon, Pluto’s moon, “Mordor” — after the dark, evil territory in the Lord of the Rings.