Western students help name craters on Mars

Western Science students Arya Bina, left, and Kayle Hansen, along with Earth Sciences professor Livio Tornabene, in back, show off Bam, one of the new craters on Mars they had the privilege to name. The International Astronomical Union Working Group for Planetary System approved the naming earlier this month. Bam is a city in the Kerman province in southeastern.

Paul Mayne // Western NewsWestern Science students Arya Bina, left, and Kayle Hansen, along with Earth Sciences professor Livio Tornabene, in back, show off Bam, one of the new craters on Mars they had the privilege to name. The International Astronomical Union Working Group for Planetary System approved the naming earlier this month. Bam is a city in the Kerman province in southeastern.

Western names are now written among the stars – or, at least in this case, written upon a planet.

On April 3, the International Astronomical Union Working Group for Planetary System approved names for two craters on Mars – names proposed by Western Science students Kayle Hansen, Arya Bina and alumnus Scott Hutchinson, BSc’16 (Earth Sciences), along with Earth Sciences professor Livio Tornabene.

Welcome to the surface of Mars: Kankossa and Bam.

Kankossa is named after a town in the west African country of Mauritania; Bam is a city in the Kerman province in southeastern Iran, named after a historic citadel built in approximately the 5th Century BC.

Born in Iran and immigrated to Canada in 2006, Bina hoped for a larger message in the naming.

“I am hoping that naming a feature after a town in my native country will inspire the next generation of scientists, regardless of class, ethnicity, race or gender, sexual orientation, religion or any other stereotypes,” he said. “I want to showcase our mutual and inclusive passion in this field, display that we entirely immerse ourselves in our research and that surely includes who we are and how we came to be.”

Mars has only a handful of craters named after towns in Iran.

Not since 2006 has the International Astronomical Union accepted a crater name from Tornabene’s team. That was when they named one of the most recent larger craters to form on Mars: Gratteri. That name comes from Tornabene’s ancestral home town in Sicily going back centuries.

“Interestingly, and I didn’t know until I did the research on the name, Gratteri comes from the Greek word for crater,” said Tornabene. “This is a strange coincidence as I came to focus on impact craters as my area of study, before I knew my ancestors came from a place that is essentially ‘crater-town.’”

After 2006, the International Astronomical Union changed its policy to shift the focus for name suggestions for craters on Mars to town names from under-represented countries.