Image of Mercury from the NASA Messenger Mission

OU PhD student names a crater on Mercury after Irish poet

OU PhD student, Jack Wright has been given the honour of naming a 120km diameter crater on Mercury which he identified through his mapping of a section of the planet.

'Heaney' 120km diameter crater on Mercury

'Heaney' 120km diameter crater on Mercury

Named ‘Heaney’ after the late Irish poet, author and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Seamus Heaney, the official announcement was made today (21 March) by the International Astronomical Union at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, USA.

The naming follows the International Astronomical Union-approved custom of naming craters on Mercury after deceased artists, authors and poets. Speaking about his inspiration Jack explained,

“Seamus Heaney immediately came to mind, not only because he was a Nobel Laureate and one of Northern Ireland's most famous sons, but also because I remember reading Death of a Naturalist (1966), his first published collection of poems, for my GCSE English Literature course. This proved to be an important piece of evidence for Heaney's worthiness to have his name given to a crater on Mercury.”

Jack Wright, PhD student, STEM

Jack Wright, PhD student, STEM

This is not the first time that the OU has contributed names to Mercury. Crater names Aneirin and Sanai suggested by Professor Rothery were approved in 2014 and last year a scarp was named Unity Rupes at Jack Wright's suggestion.

This research is part of the OU's contribution to making a complete set of geological maps of Mercury in preparation for the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo mission to Mercury, which will be launched in 2018. Jack is undertaking a PhD supervised by Professor David Rothery, Dr Matt Balme and Dr Susan Conway.