NASA seeks public input to nickname New Horizons' second target

More than four billion miles from Earth, mysterious target may be a binary system.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Nov 10, 2017
NASA is currently seeking nicknames for New Horizons' second target, the most distant object in the solar system to ever be visited by a spacecraft.

The New Horizons probe will fly by 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt Object about a billion miles beyond Pluto, on January 1, 2019.

Much like a campaign several years ago seeking names for features on Pluto and its moons before the spacecraft flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015, this project is organized by the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California, and led by New Horizons science team member and institute fellow Mark Showalter.

Voting is currently open and will continue through December 1 at 3 PM EST/noon PST.

Participants can vote for a name already on a set list or nominate and vote for their own choice. Everyone is allowed one vote per day and can vote for new names added to the list during the process.

Among the names already on the list are "Ano Nuevo" to commemorate the New Year's flyby; "Mjolnir," the name of Thor's hammer in Norse mythology;"Camalor,"a fictional Kuiper Belt city in Robert L. Forward's 1993 novel Camelot 30K,and "Pangu," the first living being according to some Chinese mythologies.

"The campaign is open to everyone. We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69," Showalter said.

Data obtained during the summer when MU69 passed in front of a star indicates the Kuiper Belt Object could be double-lobed, like Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or may actually be a binary composed of two close objects orbiting one another.

Some of the name choices, such as "Pluck and Persistence," selected as attributes of the New Horizons mission, are based on the notion of MU69 being a binary system.

Discovered in 2014 by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope to search for a second New Horizons target, MU69 is about 1,000 times bigger than Comet 67P but 500,000 times less massive than Pluto.

"New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding light on new worlds like we've never seen before," said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

"Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission's remarkable story. We're excited for the public to help us pick a nickname for our target that captures the excitement of the flyby and awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record-distant body in space."

After reviewing the results of the voting, members of the New Horizons team will choose a winner, which will be announced early in January.

Following the flyby, members of the mission team will work with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to give the object a permanent name.

Members of the public can vote and/or nominate their own name choice athttp://www.frontierworlds.org/.

 

 

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