A snowman shaped object that NASA New Horizons flew past in early 2019 now has a brand new name. On November 12, NASA officials announced that the item, formerly known as MU69 – formerly called Ultima Thule – would now bear the name Arrokoth, which means "heaven" in Powhatan / Algonquian.
Arrokoth is still the most common distant object ever visited by a spaceship – approximately 4 billion miles from Earth in a remote region of the solar system, the Kuiper Belt. The name was chosen because the team of scientists running New Horizons is located in Maryland – a country where the Powhatan lived historically and many still live today. NASA reported that they consulted with elders and representatives of the Powhatan tribes before deciding on the name.
"We gratefully accept this gift from the Powhatan people," said Lori Glaze, Director of NASA's Planetary Science, in NASA's announcement of the name. "The award of the name Arrokoth signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquians in the Chesapeake region."
The name Arrokoth replaces the former official designation of the 201
The object itself has fascinated researchers since its discovery in 2014. By 2017, researchers could not figure out what Arrokoth looked like. The interest only increased after the New Horizons probe had zipped through on New Year's Day 2019. Images from this flyby showed that the object was flatter than originally assumed, and the researchers are still analyzing data from the mission.
"Modern Data The name Arrokoth has given us clues about the origin of planets and our cosmic origins," said Marc Buie, one of the people who discovered Arrokoth, in a statement. "We believe that this ancient body, consisting of two distinct lumps that merge into one, has answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth."