Want to name a crater on Mercury? Here's your chance.

NASA's MESSENGER science team is collecting names for potential impact craters to be subitted to the International Astronomical Union.

Carnegie Institution of Washington//Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/NASA/AP
NASA’s MESSENGER probe made this image when it flew by Mercury in September 2009.

Here’s your rare chance to leave a lasting mark on a piece of the Solar System. The team behind the MESSENGER spacecraft — that machine orbiting Mercury since 2011 — is asking the public to help them name craters on the planet, in an open contest.

Fifteen finalists will be forwarded to the official arbitrator of astronomical names on Earth, the International Astronomical Union, which will pick five names in time for the end of the MESSENGER mission this spring.

“This brave little craft, not much bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle, has travelled more than 8 billion miles [12.8 billion kilometers] since 2004—getting to the planet and then in orbit,” stated Julie Edmonds of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who leads the MESSENGER education and public outreach team.

“We would like to draw international attention to the achievements of the mission and the guiding engineers and scientists on Earth who have made the MESSENGER mission so outstandingly successful.”

Here are some guidelines to increase your chances of success:
– Make sure the name does not have significance politically, religiously or for the military;
– Focus on names of writers, artists and composers and research them thoroughly, as you will be expected to provide a justification;
– Don’t pick a name that has been used elsewhere in the Solar System.

Some additional hints come from the official contest website, which adds that the competition is open to everyone except MESSENGER’s education and public outreach team and that entries close Jan. 15.

Impact craters are named in honor of people who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to the Arts and Humanities (visual artists, writers, poets, dancers, architects, musicians, composers and so on). The person must have been recognized as an art-historically significant figure for more than 50 years and must have been dead for at least three years. We are particularly interested in submissions that honor people from nations and cultural groups that are under-represented amongst the currently-named craters.

This isn’t the first planet with recent open invitations for the public to name craters. Earlier this year, astronomy education group Uwingu began asking for suggestions to name craters on Mars for maps that will be used by the Mars One team as it plans to land a private crewed mission on the planet in the coming years. Those names, however, will likely not be recognized by the IAU (the official statement is here.)

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Originally published on Universe Today.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Want to name a crater on Mercury? Here's your chance.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today