Lava plain on Mercury named as Gaeilge

Mearcair is the Irish word for Mercury, while Planitia is the Latin term for a plain

One of Mercury's most prominent features has been given an Irish name - all thanks to an Irish scientist.

Dr Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist based in the US, said he was so excited that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had approved his proposal to name a large lava plain on the planet as Mearcair Planitia that he emailed his old school, Salesian College in Celbridge, Co Kildare, to give them the news.

Mearcair is the Irish word for Mercury, while Planitia is the Latin term for a plain.

“To get this news in St Patrick’s week was absolutely brilliant,” he said.

“I got a C3 in Irish in the Leaving Certificate. Maybe I have finally done right by my Irish teacher now because she put a lot of work into me.”

Mearcair Planitia is a flat area which was most likely formed billions of years ago.

It is to the west of the Caloris Basin, one of the largest impact craters in the solar system, which was first identified in the 1970s.