Not just anybody can name a crater. But if you are keenly interested in studying these planetary potholes, it’s easier than you might think, say three Western students who now have made their mark on the Mars map.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary Nomenclature has agreed to naming Bam Crater and Kankossa Crater, at the suggestion of Arya Bina, a masters student in geology and planetary science; geology/geography undergraduate student Kayle Hansen; and geology alumnus Scott Hutchinson. The new naming will make International Astronomical Day on Saturday, April 29, all the sweeter for the trio.
Bina is studying Bam and other craters like it because they have minimal erosion, which lends to a better examination of the planet’s more recent climate and geologic history.
Mars is pockmarked with thousands of craters. Bina said, “If you’re analyzing one of them, it’s unwieldy to keep calling it something like Unnamed Crater B.”
They received an affirmative answer a little more than a month after they asked IAU to name the craters. Bina asked that one crater be named Bam – an homage to a 2,000-year-old adobe citadel in southeastern Iran that is part of an international restoration effort after earthquake damage in 2003. It is a UNSECO World Heritage site.
“Bam, the city and the crater, are about places without boundaries – significant places that draw international scholarship,” said Bina, who came to Canada from Iran in 2006. “To me, this is a statement that the search for knowledge is universal, regardless of where you are on Earth, or beyond it.”
Bam Crater is about seven kilometres across, while Kankossa crater (named for a town in Mauritania) is a little more than 16 kilometres across. Said Hansen, “As an undergrad, you don’t always think you can make a difference – but the opportunities I‘ve had here have opened up not just a whole new world but multiple worlds.”
Their supervisor, adjunct research professor Livio Tornabene of Western’s Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration, has helped name about 30 Martian craters. “To name a feature on another planetary body, you have to follow a process, of course, and you have to demonstrate how studying it further enriches the scientific community. It’s gratifying to know that these names will in all likelihood outlive all of us.”
The craters can be found here: https://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/nomenclature/names-approved-for-two-features-on-mars-kankossa-and-bam
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