Public invited to submit possible names for craters on Mercury

Name has to be that of a famous writer, artist or composer – not your own

People have been invited to submit possible names for five impact craters on Mercury - the planet in our solar system that lies closest to the sun

People have been invited to submit possible names for five impact craters on Mercury - the planet in our solar system that lies closest to the sun

 

Putting your name up in lights is enough for some but how about putting a name up on the surface of the planet Mercury?

People have been invited to submit possible names for five impact craters on the planet in our solar system that lies closest to the sun.

The drawback is the name has to be that of a famous writer, artist or composer and not your own.

The contest is linked to the Messenger satellite that has been in orbit taking pictures and conducting experiments above Mercury since March 2011.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration craft has done it all, taking a quarter of a million images and mapping the entire planet’s surface.

And now Messenger’s public outreach team hosted by the Carnegie Institution for Science has opened up an international contest to find names for five more craters, so here is a chance to make your mark on Mercury.

While the competition to shortlist 15 finalist names is a bit of fun, controlling it all is deadly serious for the International Astronomical Union, the body in charge of naming planetary features.

Tight rules govern how names in the arts and humanities are chosen. The person has to have been famous for more than 50 years and dead for more than three years.

Nor can it have any political, religious or military significance. And the name cannot have been used for any other feature on any body orbiting the sun.

It is not as easy as it looks. Yeats and Beckett are already being used for other craters on Mercury. But Beckett in this case is the Australian artist Clarice Beckett so Samuel can’t get a look-in.

Seamus Heaney is out because he has not been dead for three or more years, but James Joyce is a possibility as he has been famous for more than 50 years and he does not show up on the Union’s used name list.

The competition opened on Monday (15th) and closes on 15th January 2015. The five winning entries will be announced in late March or early April.

And what of Messenger? In flight since 2004 and having completed more than 13 billion kilometres, it will finally lose its battle against gravity and crash into Mercury next spring.

Use the union’s link to see if your suggestion has been taken by clicking here.

Enter the competition by clicking here.