Features on Mercury Receive New Names

On January 14, 2008, MESSENGER makes its first flyby of Mercury, skimming 200 kilometres above its surface. During that flyby, MESSENGER had imaged the hemisphere that has never been seen before, revealing a lot of unnamed features on its surface.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to surface features on celestial bodies, has approved new names for these new features on Mercury.

To name a feature on planets, moons and asteroids, you have to follow the rules – the naming rules. The craters on Mercury are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors. Mercury’s cliffs are named after the ships of famous explorers.

One set of cliffs discovered by MESSENGER (called by the Latin name for cliffs, rupes) is named Beagle Rupes, after the ship on which naturalist Charles Darwin sailed around the world.

The newly named craters are Apollodorus, Atget, Eminescu, Kertész, Neruda, Raditladi, Sander, Sveinsdóttir, Xiao Zhao. Click here for brief descriptions of these people.

New Names on Mercury. Click for full map

New Names for Features on Mercury.  Click on image for full map. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

During this flyby, MESSENGER found a new feature, termed a fossa (plural is fossae) by the IAU. These fossae are fault-bounded troughs or grabens that radiate out from a small area near the centre of the Caloris Basin. The feature was previously nicknamed “the spider” by the science team.

No previous fossae had been discovered on Mercury from the Mariner 10 images, so the IAU had to approve a new naming scheme – “significant works of architecture”. Pantheon Fossae were named after the Pantheon, a still-used second-century Roman temple and later church. The ancient building and the fossae both feature a central circular feature and radiating texture.

MESSENGER will return to Mercury for another flyby in October, then the third one in September 2009 and finally it will return on March 2011 to settle into Mercury’s orbit.

Source: MESSENGER Mission News

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~ by thChieh on April 30, 2008.

One Response to “Features on Mercury Receive New Names”

  1. […] captured images of about 20% of Mercury’s surface not previously seen by any spacecraft, revealing new and unexpected features. During this second flyby, MESSENGER plans to reveal another 30% of the surface that has never been […]

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