Northern Ireland news

Newly-discovered crater on Mercury named after Seamus Heaney

The `Heaney' crater on the planet Mercury
Marie Louise McConville

A Belfast student has discovered a 120km-wide crater on Mercury - and named it after Seamus Heaney.

Open University PhD student Jack Wright identified `Heaney' during mapping of the planet and chose the Bellaghy-born poet, who passed away in 2013, in accordance with the International Astronomical Union custom of naming craters on the Sun's closest neighbour after deceased artists and writers.

The official announcement of the discovery was made yesterday at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston in the US.

Mr Wright (25) said: "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, his first published collection of poems, for my GCSE English Literature course."

The Open University is helping prepare a complete set of geological maps of Mercury in preparation for the European Space Agency's BepiColombo mission to the planet, which will be launched next year.

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