NASA names the most distant world ever discovered as Arrokoth: ‘Space snowman’ found during a trip to Pluto is given a new title following backlash over Nazi connotations with old nickname Ultima Thule
- NASA has give Ultima Thule an official name that means ‘sky’ in Native American
- Now the world is named Arrokoth and was discovered three and a half years ago
- New Horizon flew past the snowman-shaped cosmic body after exploring Pluto
The most distant world ever explored four billion miles away finally has an official name: Arrokoth, which which means ‘sky’ in the Native American Powhatan/Algonquian language.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped Arrokoth on New Year’s Day -three and a half years after exploring Pluto.
At the time, this small icy world one billion miles beyond Pluto was nicknamed Ultima Thule given its vast distance from Earth.
Lead scientist Alan Stern says the new name ‘reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies’, and the Powhatan and New Horizons have regional ties.
The cosmic bodies nickname came under fire, as it was a term once used by the Nazi party in reference to the fabled ancient northern country of the ‘Aryan’ people.
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The most distant world ever explored four billion miles away finally has an official name: Arrokoth, which which means ‘sky’ in the Native American Powhatan/Algonquian language
Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division said, ‘We graciously accept this gift from the Powhatan people.’
‘Bestowing the name Arrokoth signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquian people of the Chesapeake region.
‘Their heritage continues to be a guiding light for all who search for meaning and understanding of the origins of the universe and the celestial connection of humanity.’
The spacecraft is operated from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland.
And the Hubble Space Telescope – which discovered Arrokoth in 2014 – has its science operations in Baltimore.
Arrokoth is one of the thousands of known small icy worlds in the Kuiper Belt, the vast ‘third zone’ of the solar system beyond the inner terrestrial planets and the outer gas giant planets
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped Arrokoth on New Year’s Day -three and a half years after exploring Pluto
Arrokoth is one of the thousands of known small icy worlds in the Kuiper Belt, the vast ‘third zone’ of the solar system beyond the inner terrestrial planets and the outer gas giant planets.
Marc Buie, of the Southwest Research Institute, said ‘Data from the newly-named Arrokoth, has given us clues about the formation of planets and our cosmic origins.’
‘We believe this ancient body, composed of two distinct lobes that merged into one entity, may harbor answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth.’
The new official name, which was chosen by the New Horizons team and ratified by the International Astronomical Union, was announced in a ceremony at NASA headquarters Tuesday.
Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, said, ‘The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own.’
‘That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we’re honored to join with the Powhatan community and people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery.’
The cosmic bodies nickname, Ultima Thule, came under fire, as it was a term once used by the Nazi party in reference to the fabled ancient northern country of the ‘Aryan’ people
NASA added that they had received consent from Powhatan Tribal elders, and the name was chosen to associate the culture of the native people who lived in the region where the object was discovered.
Both the Hubble Space Telescope, which found the object in 2014, and the New Horizons mission (at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory) are operated out of Maryland, whose Chesapeake Bay region is home to the Powhatan people.
Astrophysicist Simon Porter, who works for the New Horizons mission, tweeted: ‘This took far too long, but I am happy with the result. #Arrokoth!’
Ocean McIntyre, a NASA science assistant, added: ‘Arrokoth is far better of a name for MU69 than Ultima Thule.
‘I’m glad that the old moniker didn’t make the cut.’
‘Welcome to the newest member of the named solar system bodies—Arrokoth!’
WHAT IS ARROKOTH?
The Kuiper Belt object was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.
Officially known as Arrokoth 2014, it got the nickname Ultima Thule in an online vote.
In classic and medieval literature, Thule was the most distant, northernmost place beyond the known world.
Arrokoth might not be a single object. Scientists say it’s possible it’s two or many objects. An artist’s impression is pictured
When New Horizons first glimpsed the rocky iceball in August it was just a dot.
New Horizons will make its closest approach in the wee hours of Jan. 1 – 12:33 a.m. EST.
Scientists speculate Arrokoth could be two objects closely orbiting one another. If a solo act, it’s likely 20 miles (32 kilometers) long at most.
Envision a baked potato. ‘Cucumber, whatever. Pick your favorite vegetable,’ said astronomer Carey Lisse of Johns Hopkins.
It could even be two bodies connected by a neck. If twins, each could be 9 miles to 12 miles (15 kilometers to 20 kilometers) in diameter.
Scientists will map Arrokoth every possible way. They anticipate impact craters, possibly also pits and sinkholes, but its surface also could prove to be smooth.
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