November 26, 2008

Names Given To Second Set Of Mercury Craters

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to name 15 craters on Mercury. All of the newly named craters were imaged during the mission's first flyby of the solar system's innermost planet in January 2008.

The IAU has been the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919. In keeping with the established naming theme for craters on Mercury, all of the craters are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors.

"We're pleased that the IAU has again acted promptly to approve this new set of names for prominent craters on Mercury," says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "These latest names honor a diverse suite of some of the most accomplished contributors to mankind's higher aspirations. They also make it much easier for planetary scientists to refer to major features on Mercury in talks and publications."

The newly named craters include:

  • Amaral, after Tarsila do Amaral of Brazil, considered one of the leading Latin American modernist artists.
  • Dalí, after Salvador Dalí, a Spanish painter and leader of the Surrealist Movement.
  • Enwonwu, after sculptor and painter Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu, the most renowned Nigerian artist of the 20th century.
  • Glinka, after Mikhail Glinka, a Russian composer considered to be the "father" of genuinely Russian music.
  • Hovnatanian, after Hakop Hovnatanian, an Armenian painter known for his portraits.
  • Beckett, after Clarice Beckett, recognized as one of Australia's most important modernist artists.
  • Moody, after Ronald Moody, a self-taught, Jamaica-born sculptor and painter who found success in mid-20th-century London and Paris.
  • Munch, after Edvard Munch, a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker, and draftsman, perhaps most well-known for his painting The Scream.
  • Navoi, after Alisher Navoi, a 15th century Uzbek poet, considered by many to be the founder of early Turkic literature.
  • Nawahi, after Joseph Nawahi, a self-taught artist, lawyer, educator, publisher, member of the Hawaiian legislature for many years, and principal adviser to Hawaii's Queen Lili'uokalani.
  • Oskison, after John Milton Oskison, a Cherokee author who served as editor and editorial writer for the New York Evening Post.
  • Poe, after Edgar Allan Poe, American poet, critic, editor, and author. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre.
  • Qi Baishi, after Qi Baishi, a renowned Chinese painter known for his whimsical water colors.
  • Raden Saleh, after Raden Saleh, a 19th century Javanese naturalist painter considered to be the first modern artist from what is now Indonesia.
  • Sher-Gil, after Amrita Sher-Gil, an eminent Indian painter, today considered an important female painter of 20th-century India.

"It was quite enjoyable to consider candidate names from among the world's most accomplished people in the arts and humanities," says MESSENGER Participating Scientist Dave Blewett, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in Laurel, Md. "It's also gratifying to have the IAU approve names that have meaning to the team members. For example, the crater Poe (named for Edgar Allan Poe) was a popular choice, as he happens to be a local favorite because of his Baltimore ties.

"Having names for many of the prominent craters will help us to remember and discuss specific locations in this previously "Ëœundiscovered country,'" adds Blewett.

The addition of these craters, along with the 12 features named in April, brings the total to 27 newly named surface features for Mercury in 2008. In September 2009 MESSENGER will complete a third and final flyby of Mercury before becoming the first spacecraft to orbit the planet, beginning in March 2011.


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