Science and Exploration

Distant 2014 MU69 Is Now Called “Arrokoth” (Sky)

By Keith Cowing
November 12, 2019
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Distant 2014 MU69 Is Now Called “Arrokoth” (Sky)

This morning it was announce that the formal name of the distant object 2014 MU69 is “Arrokoth” which means ‘sky’ in Powhatan.
The NASA New Horizons spacecraft flew past 2014 MU69 earlier this year – the most distant object ever visited by a space mission. Prior to the fly by the object was given an unofficial nickname “Ultima Thule” to denote its extreme remoteness.

Today’s announcement was made with no advanced notice. It was done in a windowless conference room at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. NASA has still not said anything officially (we’ll update when they do).

Oddly, given the native American origin of the name and its meaning (sky) you’d have though that a more appropriate place to make this announcement – in full public view. The obvious place would have been at the Museum of the National Museum of the American Indian just three blocks away from NASA HQ. And course this could have been done outside, under the sky.

Update: NASA did talk to the National Museum of the American Indian about hosting this event however the museum does not host events like this so they declined.

If you go to this IAU circular and go to the very bottom:

“(486958) Arrokoth = 2014 MU69
Discovered 2014 by M. W. Buie and the New Horizons Search Team.
Arrokoth is the word for “sky” from the Powhatan language of native people from the Chesapeake Bay region. Institutions in this region played a prominent role in facilitating the discovery and exploration of this ancient and distant object.”

1:16 pm EST Update:

New Horizons Kuiper Belt Flyby Object Officially Named ‘Arrokoth’

“In a fitting tribute to the farthest flyby ever conducted by spacecraft, the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 has been officially named Arrokoth, a Native American term meaning “sky” in the Powhatan/Algonquian language.

With consent from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives, NASA’s New Horizons team – whose spacecraft performed the record-breaking reconnaissance of Arrokoth four billion miles from Earth – proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planet Center, the international authority for naming Kuiper Belt objects. The name was announced at a ceremony today at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies, and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we’re honored to join with the Powhatan community and people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery.”

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.