OU PhD student, Jack Wright has named a crater on Mercury after the late Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet, author and Nobel Prize winner for literature.
The official announcement was made today (21 March) by the International Astronomical Union while Jack was at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, USA.
"I wanted to name this crater after a Northern Irish artist, since I am a proud Irishman myself."
In keeping with the International Astronomical Union-approved theme of naming craters on Mercury after deceased artists, authors and poets, Jack, who also happens to be Irish, suggested the name Heaney for a previously unnamed 120km diameter crater on Mercury that lies within the area that he is mapping for his PhD.
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 doing a PhD supervised by Professor David Rothery, Dr Matt Balme and Dr Susan Conway within the OU’s Space Science priority research area.
Jack said: “Since craters on Mercury are named for deceased painters, musicians, authors, poets and other artists, I wanted to name this crater after a Northern Irish artist, since I am a proud Irishman myself. 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.”
This is not the first time that the OU has contributed names to Mercury. Crater names Aneirin, Hafiz and Sanai suggested by Professor Rothery were approved in 2014 and last year a scarp was named Unity Rupes at Jack Wright's suggestion.