A Brand New Name for Snowman-Shaped Target of NASA’s New Horizon Mission

A snowman-shaped object that NASA study New Horizons flew by in early 2019 now has a brand-new title. On November 12th, NASA officers introduced that the item previously referred to as MU69 — and as soon as nicknamed Ultima Thule — would now have the title Arrokoth, which is the phrase for “sky” within the Powhatan / Algonquian language.

Arrokoth stays the most distant object essentially ever visited by a spacecraft — situated roughly 4 billion miles away from Earth in an outlying area of the Solar System referred to as the Kuiper Belt. The name was chosen as a result of the staff of scientists who function New Horizons is based in Maryland — land the place the Powhatan individuals lived historically, and the site may nonetheless reside today. NASA says that they consulted with Powhatan tribal elders and representatives earlier than deciding on the title.

The name Arrokoth replaces the previous official designation of 2014 MU69 — which doesn’t precisely roll off the tongue. It additionally replaces the object’s nickname, Ultima Thule, a name that dated to ancient Rome, and it means “beyond limits of the known world.” The term was appropriated by the predecessor of the Nazi Party. That made NASA’s unique selection of nicknames highly controversial.

The object itself has fascinated researchers since its discovery in 2014. It wasn’t till 2017 that researchers obtained any clue what Arrokoth looked like. Interest-only increased after the New Horizons spacecraft zipped by it on New Year’s Day 2019. Photographs from that flyby revealed that the object was far flatter than initially anticipated, and researchers are nonetheless analyzing information from the mission.

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