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Recently Named Mercury Craters Honor Blues Singer and Animation Pioneer
Recently Named Mercury Craters Honor Blues Singer and Animation Pioneer
21 Dec 2012

Disney Crater
MESSENGER image of Disney crater on Mercury.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to assign names to nine impact craters on Mercury. 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 newly designated features are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors or other contributors to the humanities. The newly named craters are:

  • Catullus, for Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BC-ca. 54 BC), a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.
  • Disney, for Walter Elias "Walt" Disney (1901-1966), an American film maker, actor, and animator who, along with his brother Roy O. Disney, co-founded Walt Disney Productions, which later became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world.
  • Hopper, for Edward Hopper (1882-1967), a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. Although he was most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching.
  • Joplin, for Scott Joplin (1868-1917), an African-American composer and pianist who wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the "Maple Leaf Rag," became ragtime's first and most influential hit and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.
  • Kobro, for Katarzyna Kobro (1898-1951), a prominent Polish sculptor who co-founded the AR ("Revolutionary Artists" or "avant-garde Actual"). She is credited with revolutionizing thinking about sculpture. Her work explored the relations between the art object, the audience, and the surrounding space.
  • Komeda, for Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), a Polish film music composer and jazz pianist best known for his work in film scores. He wrote the scores for Roman Polanski's films "Rosemary's Baby," "The Fearless Vampire Killers," "Knife in the Water," and "Cul-de-sac." His album "Astigmatic" (1965) is widely regarded as one of the most important European jazz albums.
  • Kyosai, for Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), a Japanese artist who attained a reputation as a caricaturist. In addition to his caricatures, Kyosai painted a large number of pictures and sketches, often choosing subjects from the folklore of his country.
  • Popova, for Lyubov Popova (1889-1924), a Russian painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, applied artist, and illustrator. She painted in a Cubo-Futurist style and designed fabrics and agitprop books and posters.
  • Waters, for McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield (1915-1983), an African-American blues musician, generally considered the father of modern "Chicago blues." He was a major inspiration for the British blues explosion in the 1960s and is ranked No. 17 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

These nine newly named craters join 86 other craters named since the MESSENGER spacecraft's first Mercury flyby in January 2008. "Kawanabe Kyosai, 19th century Japanese artist and now namesake of Kyosai crater on Mercury, changed the first character of his name from one meaning 'crazy' in Japanese to one meaning 'enlightenment' upon being released from prison," notes William Vaughan, a Ph.D. student at Brown University who, as a member of MESSENGER Geology Discipline Group, was involved in selecting the names. "I hope that careful study of Kyosai crater will similarly reward us with enlightenment about Mercury's enigmatic geology."

Images of several of the craters can be found in the MESSENGER Science Images Gallery including Cattalus, Disney, and Waters. All of the newly named craters can be explored interactively on a global map of Mercury, with instructions available online at

"The MESSENGER team appreciates the timely approval by IAU of the names for this new list of impact craters," adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "Because these features are areas of active geological study by our team, the formal names will make it easier to communicate our findings to colleagues in the planetary sciences. More importantly, the naming of these features marks another opportunity to honor those on our planet who have advanced the arts across many eras and cultures."

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 Team Member Highlight

Christopher Hash helped create the data processing scheme for MESSENGER's Science Operations Center. Read more about his role on the mission online at

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 its primary mission, a yearlong study of its target planet. MESSENGER's extended mission began on March 18, 2012. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, the Director 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
December 21, 2012

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Last Updated: 27 Dec 2012