Seamus Heaney’s name now written in the stars

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South Derry born poet Seamus Heaney has had a newly discovered crater on Mercury named after him by a Belfast student.

Twenty-five-year-old Jack Wright was given the honour of naming the 120km diameter crater after he identified it while mapping a section of the planet as part of his research for his PhD with the Open University.

The naming follows the International Astronomical Union-approved custom of naming craters on Mercury after deceased artists, authors and poets.

“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 (1966), his first published collection of poems, for my GCSE English Literature course,” he said.

“This proved to be an important piece of evidence for Heaney’s worthiness to have his name given to a crater on Mercury.”

Wright’s research with the Open University is part of an international effort to make a complete set of geological maps of Mercury in preparation for the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo mission to the planet, which will launch next year.

This is not the first time that the Open University has contributed names to Mercury.

Crater names Aneirin and Sanai suggested by Professor Rothery were approved in 2014 and last year a scarp was named Unity Rupes at Jack Wright’s suggestion.

Heaney, whose works include Field Work, The Spirit Level and a translation of Beowulf, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He passed away in Dublin 2013, aged 74, and was laid to rest in his native Bellaghy.

HomePlace, the new arts and literary centre dedicated to the late poet opened in the village last September and has been attracting visitors - both local and international - to literary events over the last six months.