NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is set to fly past (486958) 2014 MU69, a small frozen object at the edge of our solar system. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?
Now, the space agency is now turning to the internet for help with giving it a new nickname.
On a New Year's Day 2019 mission, New Horizons will enter the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy objects and dwarf planets that exists beyond the orbit of Neptune. According to NASA, MU69 is 4 billion miles from Earth, making it the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft.
The object's official title of (486958) 2014 MU69 is a series of numbers that reference when the Hubble Space Telescope first discovered it. Scientists currently refer to the object as "MU69" for short.
“New Horizons made history two years ago with the first close-up look at Pluto, and is now on course for the farthest planetary encounter in the history of spaceflight,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We’re pleased to bring the public along on this exciting mission of discovery.”
One reason astronomers are holding out on giving it a name is because they are unsure of exactly what it is. In July, the New Horizons team caught a glimpse of MU69 and noticed an odd shape. NASA now questions whether the object is a single body, a pair, or its own system of bodies that orbit around each other.
The SETI Institute of Mountain View, California is hosting the naming campaign until 3 p.m. EST/noon PST on December 1. Website visitors can read names that are being considered or add their owns suggestions to be reviewed by NASA and the New Horizons team.
The new name will be chosen in early January 2018. For now, you can submit your suggested names and vote for your favorites at:
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