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Flyby Target's New Horizon MU69 2014 gets its official name: Arrokoth

On July 14, 2015 New Horizons made the first ever Pluto flight. As if that was not enough, the mission made history again with the Kuoera Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69 overflight on December 31, 2018. This was the farthest encounter from Earth with a celestial object, which the team received as the Ultima Thule, a mythical northern island. beyond the boundaries of the known world in medieval literature.

Unfortunately, this name has given rise to some controversy due to the fact that it is also the name used by white supremacists to designate a mythical homeland. Thus, with the consent of the tribal elders and the representatives of the powdery peoples, the New Horizons team recommended a new name for KBO. From now on, it will be known as "Arrokoth", the word for "sky" in the Powhatan / Algonquian language.

The Pouhatan Confederation, a coalition of Algonquin-speaking states, has resided in Eastern Virginia and Maryland since time immemorial. Today, members of the nations reside along the eastern seaboard, while many live in the Cottonwood Reserve (located in King William County, Virginia). This reserve is the oldest in the United States, created by treaty with England in 1600 and received federal recognition in 2015.

High resolution image by Ultima Toule. Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI

The name was sent by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) New Horizons team and the Center for Small Planets – the international body responsible for naming objects in the Kuiper Belt . That was then announced at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 12, at the NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The ceremony was officiated by Rev. Nick Miles of the Cotton Tribe, who performed a traditional Algonquian song to commemorate the decision. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of New Horizons at the Southwestern Research Institute (SwRI), explained the meaning of the new name during the ceremony:

The name "Arrokoth" reflects the inspiration of staring at the sky and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond ours own. This desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission and it is our honor to join the Puchatan community and the people of Maryland on this opening day. "

Arrokoth is one of the thousands of small ice bodies in the Kuiper Belt – a massive population of objects that are essentially residual material from the formation of the solar system. Like its main asteroid belt, it is also home to several larger bodies, such as Pluto and Charon. Many more things have been discovered since the new millennium, such as Eris, Haumeia, Makemake, 2007 OR 10 Quaoar et al.

Impressions of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft artist meeting Arroccot (also known as 2014 MU69). Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Steve Gribben

After making his historic flight to Pluto, the New Horizons team decided to continue the mission and meet the object of the Kuiper Belt. The team had already discovered MU69 for 2014 using data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). By 2015, the site was selected as one of the two potential destinations for the mission and was selected because it provides incredible exploration opportunities and will take less fuel to reach.

Mark Bue of the Southwestern Research Institute (and a member of the New Horizons team is partly responsible for the discovery of the object. As he explained:

We believe that this ancient body, made up of two separate lobes that have merged together, can contain answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth. "

usually with conventions on naming the UIA, the right to choose a permanent name In order to find an official name (preferably one that was not in dispute), the team consults with the mythological and folk traditions of the indigenous peoples living in the region where the object was discovered. [19659002] So is the Space Telescope Institute (STSI), which is responsible for the HST and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) – which is responsible for the New Horizons mission – us in Maryland, the decision to adopt a name from the indigenous population of the region is perfectly appropriate.

Composite image of Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 (now officially named Arrokoth), compiled from data obtained by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Roman Tkachenko

Choosing the Name is also important for the language of Puchatan, which has largely disappeared since the 18th century. As Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said during the ceremony:

"We kindly accept this gift from the people of Puchatan. Spelling the name Arocot means the strength and endurance of the native Algonquian people of the Chesapeake region. Their heritage continues to be a guiding light for all who seek meaning and understanding about the origin of the universe and the celestial connection of humanity. "

The name was adopted by the IAU Small Planet Center on November 8, 2019 and published in the circular of the Small Planet on November 12, 2019. By the time the New Horizons mission meets with a mission & # 39; with another KBO, Arrokoth will remain the farthest object ever explored by a robotic spacecraft. In this respect, the name is particularly appropriate because it is at the very end of human research.

Further reading: JHUAPL

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