Scientists need artists. This is especially true for those scientists who study the planet Mercury. According to a convention established by the International Astronomy Union, craters on Mercury are to be named after famous artists, writers, and musicians. And it just so happens that Mercury is the most heavily cratered object in the entire Solar System.
So yeah… Mercury scientists need artists. Lots and lots of artists.
This brings me to one of my all time favorite facts: there’s a crater on Mercury named in honor of J.R.R. Tolkien. And it’s not just any boring old crater, at least not from the perspective of colonists who might one day be living on the first planet of the Solar System.
The best real estate on Mercury is near the planet’s north pole. Sheets of water ice have been detected in that region, within the permanently shadowed bowls of craters where the sunlight can’t reach them. We recently learned there are similar ice sheets on the Moon, within craters near the Moon’s south pole.
Whether humans go to Mercury in pursuit of natural resources or for the purposes of scientific research, we’ll want to set up shop somewhere with easy access to water. Prokofiev crater (named after a Russian Soviet-era musician) is the deepest of Mercury’s polar craters, and thus likely the iciest. But Tolkien crater appears to be pretty icy too.
We’ll also probably want to construct our habitats underground. Underground habitats would provide us with some protection from solar and cosmic radiation, among other things. Therefore I have to assume that in the distant future, the residents of Tolkien crater will refer to their underground dwellings as “Hobbit holes.”