The distant Kuiper Belt object formerly known as (MU) – later known as Ultima Thule – has been renamed again. Its new name is Arrokoth.
NASA held a naming ceremony in Washington D.C. yesterday (November 12, 2019), to give (MU) its new official name Arrokoth. The name was chosen based on the local Native American culture in Maryland, where the New Horizons mission control center is based.
A wealth of data from New Horizons ’encounter with Arrokoth is still being sent back from the spacecraft to Earth for analysis. Scientists used New Horizons ’cameras to glimpse its strange, double-lobed shape, indicating a possible gentle collision of two objects long ago. Arrokoth also appears to be covered in methane or nitrogen ice, giving it a red tinge.
Toward the end of 2019, around the time the name Ultima Thule came into use,Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute and investigator on the New Horizons mission who led the naming process, had toldNewsweek (***************:
‘Beyond the limits of the known world’ – that’s such a beautiful metaphor for what we’re doing this year.
And so it was. But the association with Nazis and the alt-right apparently causedpush-back. Hence the name change.
I just read a wonderful book on the alt-right’s use of social media (Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno -Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, by Andrew Marantz). In it, he describes how the alt-right and white nationalist movements reject much of what mainstream media has to say as “lies.” They also have a huge disdain forpolitical correctness.
One can only imagine thealt-push-backgoing on in the alt-right media community today, given this name change.
Bottom line: The Kuiper Belt object formerly known as (MU) – later known as Ultima Thule – has been renamed again.Its new name is Arrokoth.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21 st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.