Last month saw two groundbreaking milestones for Filipinos in terms of expeditions into space. First, that Gregorio Villar, a Filipino working as a landing systems engineer in NASA, played a crucial part in the Perseverance rover’s successful landing on Mars. Second, Filipino engineers were triumphant in launching the Maya-2 nano-satellite from the International Space Station and into space.
Indeed, the sky is not the limit for Filipinos in the field of space exploration. In fact, we have already left our mark on Mars, by way of craters that were christened with names of Filipino towns.
But first, how did craters located light-years away get such familiar names? According to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, small craters, whose diameter is approximately 50 km wide or less, are named after towns and villages from all over the world that has a population of 100,000 or less. Meanwhile, craters wider than 50 km are named after scientists who have “contributed significantly to the study of Mars” or writers and fictionists who have “contributed to the lore of Mars.”
Given that, there are already six Martian craters named after local towns. Here’s a rundown of them:
This crater is 21.58 km wide and has been baptized after the town of Bacolor in Pampanga back in 2006. It is located on Mars at 32.99 degrees north latitude, 118.6 degrees east longitude.
Photos of the crater show double ejecta. This means that the meteorite impact that made the crater excavated a bowl-shaped hole, and caused both a violent splash of gases and fragments skyward, and a shockwave that spread outward.
The Camiling crater has a diameter of 21.91 km and was named after the town in Tarlac back in 1976. The crater is located at 0.71 degrees south latitude, 322 degrees east longitude.
This crater named after the capital of Camarines Norte measures 10.58 km wide, and was also officially given the name in 1976. It is located at 7.29 degrees south latitude, 318.2 degrees east longitude.
Also officially recognized in 1976, the Naic crater boasts a diameter of 8.3 km. The Cavite-inspired crater is located at 24.54 degrees north latitude, 107.44 degrees east longitude.
Solano is a town in Nueva Vizcaya, and is also the name given to this crater back in 1991. It measures 9 km wide and can be seen at 26.74 degrees south latitude, 108.95 east longitude on the surface of Mars.
The most recent and perhaps the most popular Martian crater named after a Filipino town, the Taytay crater was actually named after a town in Palawan, not the municipality in Rizal.
The crater has an 18.17 km diameter and is located at 7.39 degrees north latitude, 340.4 east longitude, somewhere in the Oxia Palus quadrangle, one of a series of 30 quadrangle maps of Mars utilized by the USGS.
Following these monumental milestones in exploring the frontiers of space, let’s hope more attention is turned towards Filipino talent in this escalating space race.