On March 18, 2011, MESSENGER became the first human-made spacecraft to enter orbit around Mercury. Now almost four years, eight billion miles, and over 260,000 images later, MESSENGER is nearing the end of its operational life.
To commemorate the many achievements of the mission, scientists from NASA and the MESSENGER teams at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution for Science are giving people around the world the opportunity to name five craters on Mercury — names which, once selected, will become official through the IAU!
33 years after his death, John Lennon’s name has been officially given to a crater on Mercury. Imagine that.
The 95 km (59 mile) wide Lennon crater is one of ten newly named craters on the planet, joining 114 other craters named since NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft’s first Mercury flyby in January 2008.
I’ve written about this a couple of times before and put up polls here on Lights in the Dark, but now it’s actually semi-official: you can vote on the names for Pluto’s newest moons!
(Looks like they may have taken some of our earlier suggestions too!)
Since we’re all in the democratic mood here today in the U.S., how about another chance to put your vote in on something: names for Pluto’s newest moons!
My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine…… um… Nine…………. Just Served Us Nachos?
Like it or not, everyone’s favorite far-flung world Pluto is no longer considered a full-fledged planet, at least not in the International Astronomical Union’s book. It’s now a dwarf planet, sharing its status with other icy worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune (as well as an overgrown asteroid called Ceres.) But why was Pluto demoted in the first place? What prompted the astronomy community to scrutinize Pluto’s credentials and make a decision that upset millions of people worldwide (not to mention more than a few grade-school classes)?
Personally, I’m ok with it either way. Regardless of what we call it Pluto is still a fascinating world deserving of our investigation. And if anything, it’s gotten it even more attention over the past several years than it ever got since its discovery! Not bad for a chilly little planet – er, dwarf planet – over 5 billion km away.
For more on the IAU’s controversial 2006 decision, click here.