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Mercury Craters Receive New Names

March 16, 2010

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to confer names on 10 impact craters on Mercury. The newly named craters were imaged during the mission’s three flybys of Mercury in January and October 2008 and September 2009.

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.

“All of the newly named features figure importantly in ongoing analysis of Mercury’s geological history,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “The MESSENGER Science Team is pleased that the IAU has responded promptly to our latest request for new names, so that the identities of these craters in the scientific literature can be clearly conveyed.”

The newly named craters include:

* Bek, named for the chief royal sculptor (active c. 1340 B.C.) during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, a Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. Bek is credited with the development of the “Amarna Style,” the distinctive and often peculiar combination of the exceptionally mannered and the naturalistic.

* Copland, for Aaron Copland (1900-1990), an American composer of concert and film music, as well as an accomplished pianist. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition and is widely known as the dean of American composers.

* Debussy, for Claude Debussy (1862-1918), among the most important of French composers and one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music. He was a central figure in European music at the turn of the 20th Century.

* Dominici, for Maria de Dominici (1645-1703), a Maltese sculptor and painter said to have made portable cult figures used for street processions on religious feast days.

* Firdousi, for HakÄ«m Abu’l-QÄÂsim FirdawsÄ« TÃ…«sÄ« (935-1020), a revered Persian poet and author of the ShÄÂhnÄÂmeh, the national epic of Persian people and of the Iranian world.

* Geddes, for Wilhelmina Geddes (1887-1955), an Irish stained-glass artist and member of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Her work represented a rejection of the Late Victorian approach, and she created a new view of men in stained glass windows, portraying them with close-shaven crew cuts.

* Hokusai, for Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), a Japanese artist and printmaker of the Edo period. He was Japan’s leading expert on Chinese painting and is best-known as author of the woodblock print series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the iconic and internationally recognized print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, created during the 1820s.

* Kipling, for Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), a British author and poet regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story. He is best known for his works of fiction, poems, and many short stories, including those in The Jungle Book (1894).

* Picasso, for Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), a Spanish painter, draughtsman, and sculptor best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles embodied in his work.

* Steichen, for Edward Steichen (1879-1973), an American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator. He was the most frequently featured photographer in Alfred Stieglitz’s groundbreaking magazine Camera Work during its run from 1903 to 1917.

These 10 newly named craters join 42 other craters named since MESSENGER’s first Mercury flyby in January 2008.

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