New nickname for Pluto-explorer's next target: Ultima ThuleMarch 14, 2018 6:56pm

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — There's a new nickname for the icy world next up for the spacecraft that explored Pluto: Ultima Thule.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is headed toward a New Year's Day encounter with this mysterious object or two, 1 billion miles beyond Pluto on the fringes of our solar system.

Its official name is 2014 MU69. The mission team wanted a less technical and more inspiring name and, late last year, sought public input . Announced Tuesday, the nickname Ultima Thule (THOO-lee) comes from medieval literature and refers to a distant, unknown world.

"MU69 is humanity's next Ultima Thule," New Horizons' lead scientist, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. "Our spacecraft is heading beyond the limits of the known worlds."

New Horizons will fly past Ultima Thule on Jan. 1, making it humanity's most distant encounter with another world. Discovered in 2014 and more than 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from Earth, Ultima Thule is considerably smaller than Pluto, explored by New Horizons in 2015.

Scientists estimate it's no more than 20 miles (30 kilometers) across if a single object. If it is two objects orbiting one another, each one might be 9 miles to 12 miles long (15 kilometers to 20 kilometers). There might also be a small moon. No one will know for certain until New Horizons draws closer.

The team will choose a more formal name following the flyby.

For the nickname, more than 34,000 suggestions were whittled down to a list of 37 for public online voting.

The top vote-getter actually was the name of Thor's hammer — Mjolnir — of Norse mythology, followed by Z'ha'dum, a planet in the 1990s TV series Babylon 5. Ultima Thule ranked seventh.

NASA and the New Horizons team had the final say. It came down to what seemed most appropriate to the mission and its objectives, said NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, centre, U.S. astronauts Richard Arnold, right, and Andrew Feustel, members of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), walk to report to members of the State Committee prior the launch of Soyuz MS-08 space ship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, pool)
US-Russian crew blasts off for International Space Station
Rocket carrying 2 US astronauts, Russian cosmonaut to International Space Station has blasted off from KazakhstanRocket carrying 2 US astronauts, Russian cosmonaut to International Space Station has blasted off from Kazakhstan
In this Monday, March 19, 2018, underwater video image courtesy by Paul Allen shows wreckage from the USS Juneau, a U.S. Navy ship sunk by the Japanese torpedoes 76 years ago, found in the South Pacific. Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Allen has announced that wreckage of the sunken ship on which five brothers died in World War II has been discovered in the South Pacific. A spokeswoman for Allen confirms wreckage from the USS Juneau was found Saturday off the coast of the Solomon Islands. (Paul Allen via AP)
Wreckage of ship blown apart in WWII found, offering closure
False stories claim NASA 'confessed' to spreading lithiumFalse stories claim NASA 'confessed' to spreading lithium
Florida International University President Mark B. Rosenberg, right, students and faculty staff lead a procession on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, as part of a vigil hosted by the FIU student Government Association in Miami. The vigil was for the six people killed when a new pedestrian bridge collapse last Thursday. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP)
Vigil for Florida bridge-collapse victims draws tears, gasps
US slaps sanctions on French chemical weapons expert for ISThe Trump administration is imposing sanctions on a French chemical weapons expert accused of making and using such munitions for the Islamic State group in Syria

Related Searches

Related Searches