John Lennon Memorialized with a Crater on Mercury

Mercury's Lennon crater as seen from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution
Mercury’s Lennon crater as seen from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft in January 2013.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution

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.

It’s unlikely that Mercury’s surface is populated with tangerine trees and marmalade skies, but the famous British musician who coined that phrase now has a physical presence on the planet closest to the Sun. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named an impact crater on the planet after John Lennon, the British pop music sensation who helped make The Beatles the most popular group of their generation.

“The MESSENGER team is delighted that the IAU has named an additional 10 impact craters on Mercury,” said MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University, who suggested Lennon. “We are particularly pleased that eight of the 10 individuals honored made all or many of their artistic contributions in the Twentieth Century, the same century in which the MESSENGER mission was conceived, proposed, and approved for flight. Imagine.”

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 “deceased artists, musicians, painters, and authors who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field and have been recognized as art historically significant figures for more than 50 years.”

While the notoriety and fame of the namesakes is fun, David Blewett, a MESSENGER participating scientist, says there is a practical reason for naming craters. “After a while, identifying craters by their latitude and longitude becomes laborious,” Blewett says. “Assigning names to the craters makes it easier for scientists to communicate about them, share notes and observations.”

(Source: NASA news release)