Following NASA’s historic Pluto flyby yesterday, scientists have already begun ascribing informal names to splotchy geographical features in never-before-seen images of the dwarf planet. Among the new place names is “Meng Po,” the god of forgetfulness from Chinese Buddhist mythology. Meng Po greets souls in the afterlife and gives them a bowl of soup to forget their experience of Hell before they pass into the next life.
All of the new regions of Pluto (which itself is named for the Roman god of death) are being named for figures associated with the afterlife — though, some loosely. Images released yesterday, with the informal names overlaid, show regions titled “Balrog,” for the fiery beast from the Lord of the Rings, and “Cthulu,” an H.P. Lovecraft deity. Pluto’s Buddhist afterlife connection isn’t entirely new. In Hindi, Pluto is named “Yama,” after the wrathful deity of death from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.