NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which famously flew by Pluto in 2015, is now heading towards a really previous, icy object on the fringe of the Solar System — and the area company desires your badist in giving this world a brand new nickname.
The probe’s new vacation spot is an object within the Kuiper Belt — the mbadive cloud of small our bodies that orbit past Neptune — and the area rock’s identify is, to place it bluntly, a large number. The official title is (486958) 2014 MU69, a bunch of numbers that finally consult with when the item was found by the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s a little bit of a nightmare to kind and say out loud, so having a extra eloquent nickname can be way more enjoyable and extremely useful (particularly for a sure area reporter you could know).
Now, you’ll be able to recommend nicknames on a web site hosted by the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California. But don’t fear, this received’t flip into one other Boaty McBoatface scenario. Members of the general public can nominate names, after which officers will choose their favourite submissions and put them up for vote. People may also examine to see which names are getting essentially the most love over the subsequent month.
Eventually, the New Horizons group can be submitting a proper identify to the International Astronomical Union, the affiliation that determines the official designations to planets, stars, asteroids, and different celestial our bodies. That’s going to occur after New Horizons flies by the item on January 1st, 2019, since astronomers aren’t fairly certain if 2014 MU69 is one object — or two. In July, the New Horizons group briefly noticed 2014 MU69 because it handed in entrance of a star. Based on their observations, they discovered that the item is both formed actually surprisingly, like a rubber ducky, or is actually two objects orbiting each other. So the group is ready to know precisely what the item is earlier than submitting a proper identify, or names.
But till an official title is given, we’ll have the unofficial nickname we are able to use. Submissions can be accepted by 3PM ET on December 1st, and a range can be made in early January — one 12 months earlier than New Horizons meets up with 2014 MU69 (or no matter new identify we’ll be calling it quickly).