Yellowknifers are over the moon about news that NASA scientists have decided to name the part of Mars where the Curiosity space probe has landed after the northern city.

The landing spot is being named after the N.W.T. capital in honour of the ancient rock surrounding Yellowknife.

"To find rocks older than 4 billion is very special and they occur in the Yellowknife region. And actually, the rocks that the rover is on on Mars are approximately the same age," said John Spray, a Mars researcher at the University of New Brunswick.

NASA geologist Linda Kah said strict naming rules stipulate Martian craters have to be divided into quadrants and named after Earth cities smaller than 100,000 people. She adds the geologists who picked the communities wanted to choose those associated with interesting rocks.

Geologists all over the world use Yellowknife as a springboard to study some of the oldest rocks on Earth. Now they'll be jumping off from Yellowknife, Mars, to study that planet. Earthbound Yellowknifers are having some fun with their new namesake.

Prospector Walt Humphries has staked claims in the Yellowknife area that’s full of the old rocks. He said he can’t wait until Mars is open for business, but he knows it’s going to be a while before he can stake a claim there.

"There’s a few logistical problems. We thought working in the High Arctic was bad - getting to Mars and back will be a bit of a challenge," said Humphries.

Mayor Gordon Van Tighem said it’s great to get national and international, and now extra terrestrial, recognition. He added that there might be more similarities between the two places than some might think.

"In the winter it gets a lot like Mars, in terms of the climate. It's pretty Martian here in January and February, so in that regard it's appropriate," he said.

Van Tighem wonders if it's too late to attach one of the Northwest Territory's polar-bear-shaped licence plates to the Mars rover's rear bumper.

With files from the Canadian Press