You may have been to Flateyri, a village in Iceland’s West Fjords with a population of 237. It’s the largest settlement in Önundarfjörður fjord. Getting there takes a while, driving along West Fjord’s often difficult roads.
On September 12, a more distant Flateyri got its name. No road will ever be built there, and you’re unlikely to ever get there. If you do, it will be a one-way trip. The Flateyri in question is a crater on Mars.
Monday, last week, the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature approved names for two craters on Mars: Nybyen and Flateyri. Nybyen, a small village in Norway, has a population of 118.
“Craters on Mars, which are less than 60 km in diameter derive their names from villages or towns on Earth with less than 100,000 inhabitants,” explained Sævar Helgi Bragason, head of the Astronomy Association of Seltjarnarnes, when interviewed by Fréttablaðið.
Sævar Helgi suggested that the reason Flateyri was chosen could be that the scientist who picked the name recently visited Iceland. “Numerous space scientists arrive here, both on research trips and as tourists,” he stated. He pointed out that on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, there is a lake called Mývatn, named after the better known lake in North Iceland.
There are ten Icelandic place nemes out in space. Four craters on Mercury are named after Icelanders. They are Snorri, named after historian Snorri Sturluson; Sveinsdóttir, named after painter and textile artist Júlíana Sveinsdóttir; Tryggvadóttir, named after artist Nína Tryggvadóttir; and Laxness, named after Nobel laureate Halldór Kiljan Laxness. Five craters on Mars have an Icelandic connection. One of them is named after explorer Leifur Eiríksson, while the other four carry the names of Icelandic towns and villages: Grindavík, Vík, Reykholt and, now, Flateyri.
For a better view of Flateyri, Mars, visit planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov.