Sunday, February 19, 2012

Find Your Favorite Composer, Painter, or Author on Mercury

The MESSENGER mission (orbiting the little planet Mercury) is taking remarkable close-up images.  One of the most intriguing features seen in these pictures was recently named after one of my favorite composers -- Sergei Rachmaninoff.  Double-ringed crater Rachmaninoff, seen on the image I have attached, is about 180 miles across and seems relatively young.  Note how the central circle is smoother (has fewer smaller impact craters in it), which indicates to the mission scientists that volcanic flows from inside the planet may have covered that inside region after the original double crater formed.

Rachmaninoff, a Russian-born early-20th-century composer, wrote some of the most romantic pieces of classical music, including his wonderfully over-the-top Second Piano Concerto.  The story is told that (after the negative reviews of his first symphony), Rachmaninoff became depressed and unable to write further music.  Friends took him to see a psychologist who used hypnotic suggestion to convince Rachmaninoff that he was a great composer and would write a great piece of music.  The interaction with Dr. Dahl gave him a new measure of confidence and he wrote the second piano concerto, which would become his most famous and beloved composition.

By international agreement, craters on Mercury are named after "deceased artists, musicians, painters, and authors who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field and have been recognized as historically significant figures for more than 50 years."

To see if your favorite composer, painter, or author has been honored with a crater on the planet Mercury, you can search for his or her name in the To see if your favorite composer, painter, or author has been honored with a crater on the planet Mercury, you can search for his or her name in the Advanced Search feature in the "Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature":

For target, select Mercury, for Feature Type, select "crater, craters." Then just type in your favorite composer, author, or painter into the Feature Name field. (Remember the people have to have been dead for a while, so don't look for living favorites, only for people whose reputations have become established after their deaths.)

For more on the results from the ongoing Messenger mission, see:


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