The International Astronomical Union (IAU) in a press release dated 11 April announced various names for the craters crevices and valleys on Pluto’s largest moon Charon. Out of the 12 odd surfaces which have received official names, one of them (a crater) has been named after mystical Mahabharata character ‘Revati’.
The IAU is known as the internationally recognised body for naming celestial bodies and their surface features. This naming of Charon was a result of a recommendation made by the team of NASA’s New Horizons aircraft. This spacecraft famously approached and studied Pluto’s moons back in 2015, which included its topology like craters and crevices.
Before the official christening of the craters, the New Horizons team was informally using quite a few of the recommended names.
These names though incidentally weren’t conceived by the New Horizons team but were picked up via entries sent via the public during its naming campaign carried out in partnership with the IAU.
When it comes to the Revati crater, the press release describes it as, “named for the main character in the Hindu epic narrative Mahabharata — widely regarded as the first in history (circa 400 BC) to include the concept of time travel”.
The character Revati believed to be a daughter of Kakudami who reigned in the midst of the Satya Yuga. As the story goes Revati was taken to Lord Brahma by her father to seek advice over a prospective groom. There they waited for 20 minutes while Brahma watched a musical performance, and then showed him the shortlisted grooms.
To this Brahma laughed and commented that all the prospective grooms had already died at the time of their conversation, owing to time flowing slower in the Brahma Lok as compared to earth. As per Brahma, during Revati and her father brief time at the Brahma Lok, 27 Chatur Yugas had already passed on earth. By that time, Vishnu’s older brother Balarama had already incarnated on earth and was described as a worthy husband for Revati.
Following this, Revati and Kakudami returned back to earth and grappled with the vast changes which took place in earth during the time frame which was relatively very brief for them.
This story might possibly be one of the earliest concepts of time dilation appearing in a text, the concept which is explained as the difference in “elapsed time” for two observers. This occurs owing to them either being exposed to gravitational fields of different magnitudes or a different velocity with respect to each other.
The rest of Charon’s surface names include:
- Argo Chasma – Named after a ship carrying Jason and the Argonauts in the Greek poem Argonautica
- Butler Mons – After science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler
- Caleuche Chasma – A mythological ghost ship believed to carry the dead in the seas around Chiloé island near Chile
- Clarke Montes – After well known science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke
- Dorothy Crater – Named after the protagonist Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz
- Kubrick Mons – For film director Stanley Kubrick who directed the famous 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Mandjet Chasma – Egyptian mythological boat carrying the sun god Ra (Re) across the sky every day
- Nasreddin Crater – Named after the popular folklore character of Nasreddin Hodja
- Nemo Crater – Named after famous Captain Nemo, who is the captain of submarine Nautilus made famous in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
- Pirx Crater – After a protagonist in Polish writer Stanislaw Lem’s short stories
- Sadko Crater – Character in Russian epic Bylina who travelled to the bottom of the sea