An artist’s conception of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flying by 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. (Carlos Hernandez/NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab/Southwest Research Institute)
NASA’s New Horizons probe has a New Year’s Day date with a faint, oddly formed, ice-covered object four billion miles away.
The intrepid spacecraft has been crusing by means of the chilly void of area for greater than a decade, and it hasn’t had a detailed encounter with one other object because it left Pluto in 2015. For greater than two years, however for a number of distant glimpses of rocks a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of miles away, all New Horizons has needed to look ahead to is this rendezvous on the photo voltaic system’s outermost edge.
And when the probe zips previous, the article will turn into essentially the most distant object ever to be explored by spacecraft.
There’s just one drawback. It does not have a reputation.
Correction: It does not have a good identify. Right now, it goes by (486958) 2014 MU69, an unwieldy amalgam that signifies its quantity within the minor-planet catalogue and when it was discovered. Alan Stern, the precept investigator for New Horizons, referred to as that identify a “license-plate designator” — means an excessive amount of of a mouthful for a primary badembly. This month, NASA arrange a web based marketing campaign to solicit nicknames for the article.
The area company began issues off with a number of strategies, together with “Pluck,” and the names of a number of varieties of nut — “A contact binary is often shaped like a peanut,” NASA explains. “If other bodies are found, we can name them after the type of nut they most closely resemble.”
No surprise they want your badist.
You can submit your suggestion through this kind or vote for one of many names already being thought of right here. Polls shut at three p.m. Eastern time on Dec. 1. To guarantee this does not turn into one other Boaty McBoatface scenario, NASA hasn’t badured that it should go along with the preferred choice. Instead, the company and the New Horizons crew will evaluation the names with essentially the most votes and select their favourite.
After the flyby, NASA will work to formalize the article’s new designation with the International Astronomical Union, which oversees the naming of all celestial objects. (You could bear in mind the IAU because the group accountable for Pluto’s demotion from planet to dwarf planet in 2006.)
NASA does not know a lot about (486958) 2014 MU69, a.ok.a. Pluck, a.ok.a. Peanut, a.ok.a. Rocky McRockface — that is the entire level of sending New Horizons to review it. It is a Kuiper-belt object — an inhabitant of the large, frozen disk of particles that encircles the outer photo voltaic system — and it was found in 2014 throughout a Hubble Space Telescope survey geared toward pinpointing an appropriate new goal for New Horizons as soon as it was completed at Pluto. It’s tiny (about 25 miles throughout) and much away (a few billion miles farther from Earth than Pluto).
In the summer time, astronomers noticed the article’s shadow because it moved in entrance of a distant star, a phenomenon often called an “occultation.” The observations revealed that the article in all probability consists of two smaller our bodies which are carefully orbiting or caught collectively.
“This means we are very probably going to a primordial binary in the Kuiper Belt, a 4-billion-year-old relic of solar system formation and an exotic building block of the small planets of the Kuiper Belt like Pluto, Ixion, Makemake, Sedna and Eris,” Stern wrote in a weblog publish.
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