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February 14, 2022

Did you know that there are rules for how features on other planets and moons in our Solar System are named? Craters on Venus, for example, are named for women, but many features on Pluto are named for beings associated with the Underworld. For Valentine’s Day, let’s explore the love across the solar system! 

Let’s start with Venus, named for the Roman Goddess of love, beauty, and victory. Venus’ Terrae ( extensive land masses) are named for Goddesses of Love. These are some of the largest features labeled on Earth’s twin planet, so Venus has lots of love! 

 

Aphrodite Terra is named for the Greek goddess of love. Ishtar Terra is named for the Babylonian love goddess, and Lada Terra is named for the Slavic goddess of love. 

Astrogeology's Venus mosaic showing Aphrodite Terra
Venus mosaic showing Aphrodite Terra.

 

Geological features on Enceladus are named for people and places from Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translation of the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (also known as Arabian Nights). The story follows the struggle of Scheherazade to maintain her life in the arms of a paranoid king, by telling him a story every night. Spoiler alert, she succeeds and her thrilling stories (including family favorites like Aladdin) enchant the King into falling in love with her. The honor of the Scheherazade name goes to a crater on the Jovian moon, the king, Shahryar also with a crater. Scheherazade's name (spelled slightly differently) now graces the middle of a trio of large craters in Enceladus' northern hemisphere. 

 

Photo of Enceladas Saturn's Moon
Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Uranus’ moons have features named after characters and places from the works of William Shakespeare. Romeo’s tragic, cold end in the play Romeo and Juliet is commemorated with a crater on the cold moon Oberon; a fitting homage.  

 

 

Pictorial Map of Oberon. Southern Hemisphere.
Pictorial Map of Oberon. Southern Hemisphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Venus is the place for love, asteroid 433 Eros is the place for lovers!  

Photo of the asteroid Eros. Northern Hemisphere.
Photo of the asteroid Eros. Northern Hemisphere. Image # PIA02923. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL.

Eros is the Greek god of love, so it’s fitting that the craters on the asteroid Eros are named for lovers throughout mythology, literature, and history. Craters such as Casanova, Don Juan and Don Quixote can be found alongside Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, Jia Baoyu (Pao-yü crater) and Lin Daiyu (Tai-yü crater), and of course Saint Valentine! 

Eros Place Names
Simple cylindrical projection of an image mosaic of Eros is labeled with proposed names for most of the larger features on the asteroid.

 

Photo of Valentine crater
Photo of the Valentine crater extracted from eros (usgs.gov) mosaic.

 

We hope that you enjoyed your tour. Happy Valentine’s Day!