Formerly Known Object as ‘Ultima Thule’ Permanently Assigned a Native American Name

NASA‘s New Horizon probe has captured a cosmic object that resembles a snowman and also flew by it approximately a year ago. Now, the object has given a name, a Native American one: Arrokoth, which means ‘sky’ in the Powhatan/Algonquian language.

Arrokoth​ now takes the place of all the previous labels of the Kuiper Belt object, also the numerical designation’ 2014 MU69,’ and the nickname ‘Ultima Thule,’ a rather controversial name.

Arrokoth​ Means ‘Sky’

According to an announcement made by members of the New Horizons science team, their suggested name has been approved by the International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Center.

Before creating the proposal, the researchers won the consent of elders of the Powhatan Tribe, which is well known for its historical figure, Pocahontas. A few members of the tribe are currently living in Maryland, which was also the base for New Horizons’ mission expeditions.

“The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own,” Alan Stern, a planetary scientist, and New Horizons principal investigator said in a NASA statement. 

According to IAU naming rules, the discoverers are given the opportunity to choose a permanent name for the discovered cosmic object. This way, the previously known 2014 MU69​ discovered by the scientists of the New Discovery team, who found it back in 2014 utilizing the Hubble Space Telescope, has been attributed to a new and permanent name.

Ultima Thule

The new name, Arrokoth​, did not meet the controversy that was linked to the cosmic body’s prior nickname, Ultima Thule.

Ultima Thule is a phase that was utilized in ancient periods to detail an area beyond the known world. However, the term was endorsed by Nazis and other right-wing radicals to make reference to the imaginary world of an ‘Aryan race.’

As the commotion over January’s flyby erupted, the New Horizon team of scientists was rebuked and criticized for choosing the phase. Back then, Stern argued that Ultima Thule bore the significance of a ‘wonderful meme for exploration.’

Stern and other researchers on the New Horizon team are now expecting to find another body in the Solar System’s Kuiper Belt that could be inspected by a probe.​

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