Latin social media feeds to link past and present
As part of a language outreach project, pictures of the surface of Mars taken from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be captioned in Latin on social media outlets.
The Latin captions will accompany the images from August 28th on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
The HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has been ongoing since 2006, with the Latin translations being carried out by 18 volunteers coordinated in the UK.
The volunteers said they were inspired by the former Pope’s Latin feed.
The then Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet in the ancient language at the beginning of the year and also used Latin in his resignation speech.
The volunteers say that some of science’s greats wrote in Latin, and this is a nice way of linking the past with the present.
Captions are already provided in 10 languages as well as English, including Hebrew, Icelandic and Russian.
While some modern scientific terms had challenged the Latin translators, more mundane phrases had also faced scrutiny, said Dr Lorna Robinson, director of the Iris Project, a UK-based Latin language outreach initiative, which is coordinating the team.
"There has been debate over whether to keep the Latin more simple or make it as close to classical Latin as possible," she said.
"We reached a compromise – wanted to keep it clear and accessible to outsiders without being wrong."
"One of the fascinating things for me has been discovering how many parts of Mars have been named in Latin," she said.
"It will be interesting for people to see these connections. Terra [is Latin for] terrain, for example – most people will be able to work that out."
The HiRise camera was designed for continuous use until the fuel on the MRO runs out in 2023, and sends back over 12 images each day.