Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Join NASA's Contest to Name the Craters of Mercury

Mercury up close

(Photo : REUTERS/NASA/HANDOUT) A view of Mercury from the MESSENGER spacecraft.

The team behind NASA's MESSENGER mission has begun a competition to name the craters of Mercury.

The competition allows anyone to join as long as his entry is in line with International Astronomical Union rules. Contestants have to choose a name of an artist, composer or writer who was famous for more than 50 years and has been dead for over three years.

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The contest will run from December 15 to January 15, 2015. Participants can send their name suggestions via the Carnegie Institution for Science's website. Experts will select 15 finalist names, and the IAU and the MESSENGER team will be the one to choose the winning names.

The announcement of winners will occur at the end of MESSENGER'S mission in late March or early April 2015.

MESSENGER is a robotic NASA spacecraft orbiting Mercury, the first spacecraft ever to do so

MESSENGER is an acronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. The 485 kilogram spacecraft was launched aboard a Delta II rocket in August 2004 to study Mercury's chemical composition, geology,\ and magnetic field.

NASA has programmed the spacecraft to take roughly 2,500 photos of the planet, but the goal has been exceeded and the number of photos taken of Mercury numbers over 250,000.

NASA estimates the spacecraft will run out of fuel and crash into Mercury in March 2015.

MESSENGER was not the first spacecraft to visit Mercury but is the first spacecraft to do since the Mariner 10 space probe flew by Mercury in the 1970s. Mariner 10 only took images of 45 percent of Mercury's surface. Its camera had a significantly lower resolution compared to the one aboard MESSENGER, however.           

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