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International Astronomical Union Approves Ten New Names for Mercury Craters
International Astronomical Union Approves Ten New Names for Mercury Craters
21 Jun 2013

Mercury's Caloris Basin. This image was taken before orbit insertion of the MESSENGER spacecraft. Credit: NASA
MeSSENGER and Mercury
The MESSENGER spacecraft.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) -- the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919 -- recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to assign names to 10 impact craters on Mercury. In keeping with the established naming theme for craters on Mercury, all of the newly designated features are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors or other contributors to the humanities. The newly named craters are:

  • Bechet, for Sidney Bechet (1897-1959), an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. Bechet was one of the first important soloists in jazz and was perhaps the first notable jazz saxophonist.
  • Damer, for Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828), an English sculptor. Damer produced busts in Neoclassical style, and her subjects were drawn largely from friends and colleagues in Whig circles, including Lady Melbourne and King George III.
  • David, for Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), an influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of his era.
  • Duccio, for Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1318), an Italian artist, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, where he was born, in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
  • Erté, for Romain de Tirtoff (1892-1990), a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T. Erté flourished in a variety of fields, including fashion, jewelry, graphic arts, costume, and set design for film, theater, and opera, and interior decor.
  • Larrocha, for Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009), a Spanish pianist considered one of great piano legends of the 20th century. Larrocha won multiple Grammy Awards, a Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, and in 1995 she became the first Spanish artist to win the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Prize.
  • Laxness, for Halldór Kiljan Laxness (1902-1998), a twentieth-century Icelandic writer of poetry, newspaper articles, plays, travelogues, short stories, and novels. Laxness received the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature and is the only Icelandic Nobel laureate.
  • Monk, for Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-1982), an American jazz pianist and composer, considered one of the giants of American music. Monk made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "'Round Midnight" and "Straight, No Chaser."
  • Rikyu, for Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), a Japanese Tea Master who was the first to emphasize several key aspects of the ceremony, including rustic simplicity, directness of approach, and honesty of self.
  • Varma, for Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), an Indian artist recognized for his depiction of scenes from the two great epics of India: the Mahabharata and Ramayana. His paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.

These ten newly named craters join 104 other craters named since the MESSENGER spacecraft's first Mercury flyby in January 2008. More information about the names of features on Mercury and the other objects in the Solar System can be found at the U.S. Geological Survey's planetary nomenclature web site:

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and entered orbit about Mercury on March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011 UTC), to begin a yearlong study of its target planet. MESSENGER's extended mission began on March 18, 2012, and ended one year later. A proposed second extended mission is currently under evaluation by NASA. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, the Director of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

MESSENGER Mission News
June 21, 2013

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Last Updated: 21 Jun 2013