A snowman-shaped item that NASA probe New Horizons zipped in very early 2019 now has a new name. On November 12th, NASA authorities announced that the thing previously called MU69– as well as soon as nicknamed Ultima Thule– would certainly now have the name Arrokoth, which is words for “sky” in the Powhatan/ Algonquian language.
Arrokoth remains the most distant item ever before visited by a spacecraft– situated about 4 billion miles far from Earth in a remote region of the Solar System called the Kuiper Belt. The name was picked because the group of researchers that operate New Horizons is based in Maryland– the land where the Powhatan individuals lived traditionally, and where lots of still live today. NASA claims that they talked to Powhatan tribal senior citizens as well as agents before choosing the name.
“We graciously accept this gift from the Powhatan people,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said in NASA’s announcement of the name. “Bestowing the name Arrokoth signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquian people of the Chesapeake region.”
The name Arrokoth changes the former main classification of 2014 MU69– which does not precisely roll off the tongue. That made NASA’s original choice of nickname extremely debatable.
The object itself has attracted scientists since its exploration in 2014. It had not been until 2017 that scientists got any hint of what Arrokoth appeared like. Interest-only increased after the New Horizons spacecraft whizzed by it on New Year’s Day 2019. Images from that flyby disclosed that the things were far flatter than initially expected, and researchers are still examining data from the mission.
“Data from the newly-named Arrokoth has given us clues about the formation of planets and our cosmic origins,” Marc Buie, one of the people who discovered Arrokoth, said in a statement. “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.”