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New target horizon 2014 MU69 gets official name: Arrokoth

On July 14, 2015, on New horizons made Pluto's first escape. As if that weren't enough, the mission recounted the history of the Kuiper Belt (LBM) 2014 Mu69 facility on December 31, 2018. This constituted the most distant encounter from Earth with a celestial object, which the team dubbed Ultima Tule – a mythical northern island beyond the confines of the known world in medieval literature.

Unfortunately, this name has caused some controversy due to the fact that it is also the name white supremacists to refer to a mythical homeland. So, with the approval of tribal elders and people's representatives in Pachata, the New Horizons team recommended a new name for KBO. From now on, it will be known as "Aroko", the word "sky" in the Powhatan / Algonquian language.

The Powhatan Confederation, a coalition of Algonone-speaking nations, has been living in eastern Virginia and Maryland since time immemorial. Today, members of the nations reside across the east coast, while many reside on the Cotton Reservation (located in King William County, Virginia). This reservation is the oldest in the United States, established by an agreement with England in the 1600s and receiving federal recognition in 2015.

High resolution image of Ultima Thule. Credit: NASA / HUAPL / SIA

The name was submitted by New horizons team of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Center for Juvenile Planets – an international body responsible for naming objects in the Kuiper Belt. It was then announced at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 12, at NASA's Washington, DC headquarters.

The ceremony was initiated by the Honorable Nick Miles of the Pamunki tribe who performed traditional Algonian music to celebrate the decision. Allen Stern, lead researcher for New Horizons from the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI), explained the meaning of the new name during the ceremony:

"The name 'Arroot' reflects the inspiration to look up to the sky and wonder about the stars and worlds outside of us. That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we are honored to join the Powhatan community and the people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery. “

Arrokoth is one of thousands of small ice bodies in the Kuiper Belt, a massive population of objects that are essentially remnants of material from the solar system. Similar to the asteroid's main belt, it is also home to several larger bodies, such as Pluto and Sharon. Much more has been discovered since the new millennium, such as Eris, Chauma, Makemake, 2007 OR10, Kwara and others.

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, colliding with Arocotoh (aka 2014 MU69) Credit: NASA / HUAPL / SRI / Steve Griben

After making his historic flight to Pluto, New horizons The team decided to continue with the mission and turn it into a realtor with the Cape Canary facility. Already, the team discovered the MU69 for 2014 using data from Hubble Space Telescope (HRT) By 2015, the subject was chosen as one of the two potential mission destinations and chosen because it represents incredible research opportunities and will take less fuel to achieve.

Mark Buey from the Southwest Research Institute (and a member of the New horizons team) was partially responsible for detecting the case. As he explained:

"The data from the newly named Arcrot gives us clues to the formation of planets and our cosmic origin. We believe that this ancient body, made up of two different lobes merged into one entity, may have answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth. "

As is customary with IAU naming conventions, the right to choose a permanent name for a cosmological object goes to the discovery team. Faced with the need to find an official name (preferably one that was not controversial), the team consulted with the mythological and folk traditions of the indigenous peoples living in the region where the object was discovered.

As well as the Institute for Scientific Space Telescopes (STSI), which is responsible for HR, and the Johnson Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) – which is responsible for New horizons mission – located in Maryland, the decision to make a name for the indigenous peoples in the region was entirely appropriate.

Composite image of the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (now officially named Arrokoth) compiled from data obtained from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. Credit: NASA / HUAPL / SRI / Roman Tkachenko

The name choice is also relevant to the Powhatan language, which has largely been extinct since the 18th century. As Lori Glaz, director of NASA's planetary science department, said during the ceremony:

"We graciously accept this gift from the Pahuhan people. Giving it the name Arococht signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquians from the Cesapeake region. Their legacy continues to be the guiding light for all who seek meaning and understanding of the origin of the universe and the celestial connection of mankind. "

The name was accepted by the IAU Juvenile Planning Center on November 8, 2019 and published in the Small Planet Circular on November 12, 2019. Until the moment when New horizons mission rendezvous "with another KBO, Arrokoth will remain the most remote object ever studied by a robotic spacecraft. In this respect, the name is particularly appropriate as it resides at the very edge of people's research.

Further reading: JHUAPL

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