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Nomination Highlights, 28 March

posted Mar 29, 2015, 10:14 AM by Mark Showalter
We continue to receive a fascinating collection of nominees. Here are a few that we recently added to the ballot.

Gustave Dore printSeveral wrote to remind us of the iconic prints by Gustav Doré, a French artist from the 19th century who illustrated an 1861 edition of Dante's Inferno.

From Europe, we received a nomination for a fictional explorer: "Lāčplēsis is a name of a fictional character who had explored the Latvian land, as well as became a hero to his people. It's story is quite difficult and long, based on local legends and stories. But this character is the most important in Latvian culture, not only because of his hero characteristics, but also due to the aspiration for the science and early astronomical discoveries."

From North America came a nomination for a fictional vessel: "Prydwen is the ship that carried King Arthur into the Otherworld, the haunted land of spirits, gods and the dead, in the ancient Welsh poem Preiddeu Annwfn. The title translates to The Spoils of Annwfn (the Otherworld). Arthur, in the poem, was raiding the Otherworld for a mystical cauldron which may or may not be the precursor to the Holy Grail. It's a strange, dark and difficult poem, but the name straddles both the fictional vessels category and the Underworld categories. It has a solid mythological background and represents a pantheon—the Welsh-Celtic myths—that's lacking in our current solar system naming scheme."

Michal Boym wildlife drawing
In the category of historical explorers, we learned about the Polish scientist Michał Boym: "He is notable as one of the first westerners to travel within the Chinese mainland and his Flora Sinensis was the first description of an ecosystem of the Far East published in Europe. Boym also published the first dictionary to translate between Chinese and European languages.

Another historic explorer reminds us of the roles that serendipity and patience play in all of science: Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, who discovered the first prehistoric cave paintings known to the modern world. "He was a Spanish amateur archaeologist and explorer of the Cave of Altamira. These caves provide a window into human development, much as Pluto provides a window into Solar System development. Although Sautuola's discoveries were discredited by experts early on, he was later completely vindicated and his discoveries appreciated, albeit after his death."
Altamira cave drawing of a bison

The "Travelers to the Underworld" theme has provided a particularly diverse range of nominees. Although this theme dates back thousands of years, at least to the Epic of Gilgamesh, it shows up in modern literature as well. "Lyra Belacqua is the female protagonist from Philip Pullman's Northern Lights trilogy. Only 12 when the story starts she is stubborn, resourceful and not one to kowtow to authority. In book 2, she makes a perilous journey to the Land of the Dead undergoing great pain at being separated from her daemon Pantalaimon. Together with her friend Will they must work to stabilise the universe by shutting down all inter dimensional windows and in the process sacrificing their love and friendship as they must stay  apart in their respective parallel dimensions. I think Lyra would be a great character to name a feature after. She's an all too rare example of a strong female protagonist and after her adventures in Northern Lights she grows up to become a scientist, writing a dissertation called 'Developments of patterns of trade in the European Arctic region with particular reference to independent balloon carriage (1950–1970)'! If we want to encourage girls to grow up to be scientists Lyra is great role model! Her's is a story of bravery, loyalty, of not being afraid to make very difficult decisions, the pursuit of knowledge, and self sacrifice for the good of humanity."

Finally, a New Jersey professor provided a very powerful justification for his nomination of Krun, a monster of the darkness. "I'm trying to raise awareness of the Mandaean community of Iraq and Iran. They are one of the few communities from the Middle East that still preserve the ancient Babylonian tradition of divination by the stars and heavenly bodies (astrology), directly from the source (they even retain the traditional Akkadian names for the stars and the visible planets). [....] Unfortunately, with the Second Gulf War, their community (a minority faith in both Iraq and Iran) has become progressively endangered, and much of it has gone into a global diaspora. The lives of those that remain and their ancient culture are threatened by religious extremists, such as ISIS, who seek to eliminate anything pre-Islamic in the Middle East. I hope that OurPluto can establish a monument to them in the heavens, where these extremists cannot reach them."