Mercury 'jewel' named after Battle of Catterick poet

OUTER SPACE: A NASA Messenger mission image of craters on Mercury, one of which has been named after the poet Aneirin

OUTER SPACE: A NASA Messenger mission image of craters on Mercury, one of which has been named after the poet AneIrin

HISTORY DOCUMENT: A mediaeval manuscript featuring Aneirin's poem about the Battle of Catterick, Y Gododdin

First published in News

ONE of the largest features on the planet Mercury has been named after a Dark Ages poet, famed for writing about a 6th Century battle for Yorkshire and the North-East.

The 290-mile wide Aneirin crater has become the 372nd on the planet to been named after deceased writers, artists, poets and composers.

The names of other craters include Byron, Burns, Debussy, Hemingway, Lennon, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Yates.

Aneirin, suggested by Open University planetary geoscientist Professor Dave Rothery, is best known for Y Gododdin, a series of elegies for the warriors of the northern Brythonic kingdom who fell at the Battle of Catraeth (Catterick) in around AD600.

The battle between a force of northern Britons raised by the Gododdin, and the Angles of Bernicia and Deira, whose territories included Durham, Northumberland and Teesside and had a stronghold at Catterick.

The battle, which historians believe may have been an attempt to push back Anglo-Saxon expansion, was disastrous for the Britons, who were nearly all killed.

After the battle, the Angles are thought to have absorbed the Gododdin kingdom and incorporated its territory into the kingdom of Northumbria.

Aneirin, whose contemporaries described as the "prince of bards" and "of flowing verse", is thought to be the son of the ruler of Yorkshire and is believed to have been among two survivors of the battle, in which his son Owain was killed.

He remained a captive until his ransom was paid.

Prof Rothery, who has an interest in Dark Ages history, has been studying volcanic processes in the surface of the innermost planet, in particular three large lava-flooded craters, including Aneirin.

He said: "Aneirin seemed to me to be an individual worthy of wider recognition.

"Naming features on planets is a helpful way of identifying them and avoids having to just refer to them by co-ordinates, which can be very cumbersome.

"Aneirin is the jewel among these, but still had no official name until we made a case for it.

"Aneirin seemed to me to be an individual worthy of wider recognition, and I am very pleased that my name suggestion was approved."

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