by Thor Benson
Washington (UPI) Dec 15, 2014
The team behind NASA's Mercury orbiter, MESSENGER, has begun a competition to name the craters of Mercury.
People will not be allowed to pick their own name for the craters, but instead have to choose the name of an important person known for their work in arts or humanities who has been dead for at least three years and significant for at least 50.
The competition runs from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15, and they will announce the names that were chosen in March or April. "It is easier to say "Mt. Everest" rather than 'the 8,484 meter peak located at 27°59′17″ N, 86°55′31″ E'" says the statement announcing the competition. They say it is easier for scientists to communicate about features of Mercury that may be significant if they have names.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first to orbit Mercury completely and did so in March of 2011. They planned for the spacecraft to take roughly 2,500 photos of the planet, but it has since taken over 250,000. It is estimated the spacecraft will run out of fuel and crash into Mercury in March of 2015.
The MESSENGER wasn't the first spacecraft to visit Mercury, but it's the first to do so since the Mariner 10 space probe flew by Mercury in the 1970s. The Mariner only captured images of 45 percent of Mercury's surface, and it used a significantly lower resolution camera compared to MESSENGER.
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