The snowman subject that NASA's New Horizons probe flew in early 2019 now has a brand new name. On November 12, NASA officials announced that the item, formerly known as MU69 – and formerly called Ultima Thule – would now be named Arrokoth, which is the word "Powhatan" in Powhatan / Algonquian language.
Arrokoth remains the farthest object ever visited by a spacecraft – located about 4 billion miles from Earth in a distant area of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt. The name was chosen because the team of scientists operating New Horizons is based in Maryland, a land where the people of Puchatan have historically lived and where many live to this day. NASA says they consulted with the tribal elders and representatives of the Powhatan tribe before deciding on the name.
"We kindly accept this gift from the people of Puchatan," said Lori Glas, director of NASA's Planetary Sciences Division, in a NASA name announcement. "The name Arrokoth means the strength and endurance of the native Algonquian population of the Chesapeake region."
The name Arrokoth replaces the former official designation of 201
The site itself has fascinated researchers since its discovery in 2014. It wasn't until 2017 that researchers got any idea of what Arroccot looks like. Interest has only grown since the New Horizons spacecraft, coded by him on New Year's Day 2019. Images from this flyby reveal that the object is far flatter than originally expected, and researchers are still analyzing mission data.
"Data from newcomers, named Arrokoth, gave us clues about the formation of planets and our cosmic origin," said Mark Buoy, one of the people who discovered Arrokoth. "We believe that this ancient body, made up of two separate lobes that are fused together, can contain answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth."