You Can Give New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target a (Temporary) Name

Artist’s illustration of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flying by the distant object 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. Early observations trace on the Kuiper Belt object being both a binary orbiting pair or a contact (stuck-together) pair of practically like-sized our bodies with diameters close to 12 and 11 miles (20 and 18 kilometers).

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Carlos Hernandez


You have the prospect to hold a nickname on the small, distant object that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will zoom previous on Jan. 1, 2019.


That flyby goal now goes by the quite uninspiring moniker “(486958) 2014 MU69.” But the New Horizons crew desires to jazz issues up a bit, so that they’re soliciting nickname solutions from most of the people.


“The campaign is open to everyone,” New Horizons crew member Mark Showalter, of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, mentioned in an announcement. “We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69.” [Destination Pluto: NASA’s New Horizons Mission in Pictures]


You can submit a suggestion by means of Dec. 1 at https://frontierworlds.seti.org. NASA and New Horizons crew members will announce the winner in early January.


To be clear: That winner will probably be a nickname, not the brand new official appellation of MU69.


“After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this intriguing world, we and NASA will work with the International Astronomical Union to badign a formal name to MU69,” Showalter added. “Until then, we’re excited to bring people into the mission and share in what will be an amazing flyby on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019!”


The upcoming flyby would be the second for the $700 million New Horizons mission, which famously cruised previous Pluto on July 14, 2015. Before that shut encounter, one of the best images of the dwarf planet confirmed a mere blur of pixels. But New Horizons’ beautiful imagery revealed a posh, numerous world with a wide range of landscapes, from mbadive mountains of water ice to a plain of frozen nitrogen 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) broad.


Like pre-flyby Pluto, MU69 — which lies about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) past the dwarf planet — is cloaked in thriller. For instance, astronomers do not even know if it is a single object; MU69 might encompbad a pair of our bodies, every about 12 miles (19 km) broad, New Horizons crew members have mentioned.


“New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding light on new worlds like we’ve never seen before,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, mentioned in the identical badertion.


“Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission’s remarkable story,” Stern added. “We’re excited for the public to help us pick a nickname for our target that captures the excitement of the flyby and [the] awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record-distant body in space.” 


Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally revealed on Space.com.




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