Names of Scottish ospreys sent to Mars on Nasa rover

image copyrightWoodland Trust Scotland
image captionThe four ospreys - known to conservationists as Louis, Aila, Mallie and Rannoch - on their nest site in Lochaber

The names of four birds of prey from a Highlands nest site are among those "sent to Mars" on Nasa's rover Perseverance, it has emerged.

Nasa sought names to be stencilled in microscopic lettering onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips fitted to a plaque on the robot.

Louis, Aila, Mallie and Rannoch - four ospreys from Loch Arkaig Pine Forest - are among the 10.5 million names.

The rover touched down in a Martian crater known as Jezero where it will search for signs of past microbial life.

The names have been given to the four ospreys by conservationists and birdwatchers.

The nest site at Woodland Trust Scotland's Loch Arkaig Pine Forest, near Fort William in Lochaber, can be viewed online via a webcam.

Linda Keene, of Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, was among those following the fortunes of Louis and Aila and their two chicks in 2019 when Nasa's Send Your Name to Mars campaign caught her eye.

She submitted the names and they were, along with the millions of others, etched into the tiny chips.

image copyrightNASA
image captionPerseverance landed on Mars last week

George Anderson, of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: "The Loch Arkaig ospreys became very famous last year when they became a lockdown hit with people stuck at home desperate to connect with nature.

"We never thought their fame would stretch as far away as another planet though.

"We are very touched that Linda has celebrated the birds in this way."

A previous mission to Mars also had links to Scotland.

Rover Curiosity visited geological features given Scottish place names by scientists. They included St Kilda, Newmachar, Benbecula and Jura.