NASA Invites Public To Name New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target

Posted: Nov 11 2017, 11:07am CST | by , Updated: Nov 11 2017, 11:13am CST, in News

 
NASA Invites Public to Name New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Carlos Hernandez

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt on January 1, 2019

NASA is looking for the right nickname for New Horizon’s next flyby destination. For this purpose, the space agency is conducting a naming campaign which will continue till December 1. The winning nickname will be announced in early January next year.

“The campaign is open to everyone,” said Mark Showalter, a member of the New Horizons science team. “We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69.”

Officially designated as 2014 MU69, the object will be studied by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The spacecraft was originally designed to explore dwarf planet Pluto. As a part of extended mission, it will head further into the edge of our solar system and fly past this small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt on January 1, 2019.

2014 MU69 is located about a billion miles beyond Pluto. That makes it the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft.

“New Horizons made history two years ago with the first close-up look at Pluto, and is now on course for the farthest planetary encounter in the history of spaceflight,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We’re pleased to bring the public along on this exciting mission of discovery.”

Based on the prior observations, researchers suspect that MU69 may not be a single object. It could be an extreme prolate spheroid, a binary pair or even a system of multiple objects. Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help researchers answer basic questions about the the size, shape, interior makeup and environment around MU69.

“New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding like on new worlds like we’ve never seen before,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. “Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission’s remarkable story. We’re excited for the public to help us pick a nickname for our target that captures the excitement of the flyby and awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record distant body in space.”

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