On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt will fly past a small, frozen destination at the outer edge of our solar system.
Right now, the target Kuiper Belt object, or KBO, goes by the name “(486958) 2014 MU69” or just MU69 for short. Officials are looking for your help to change that. That’s right, NASA is asking the internet for a nickname.
“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.”
After the flyby, NASA and the New Horizons project plan to choose a formal name to submit to the International Astronomical Union, based in part on whether MU69 is found to be a single body, a binary pair, or perhaps a system of multiple objects. The chosen nickname, hopefully not Rocky McRockface, will be used in the meantime.
“New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding light on new worlds like we’ve never seen before,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “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.”
The naming campaign website includes names currently under consideration; site visitors can vote for their favorites or nominate names they think should be added to the ballot. “The campaign is open to everyone,” Showalter said. “We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69.”
The campaign will close at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1. NASA and the New Horizons team will review the top vote-getters and announce their selection in early January.
“Many Kuiper Belt Objects have had informal names at first, before a formal name was proposed. After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this intriguing world, we and NASA will work with the International Astronomical Union to assign a formal name to MU69,” Showalter said. “Until then, we’re excited to bring people into the mission and share in what will be an amazing flyby on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019!”
Do you have an idea? Submit your suggested names for MU69 and vote for your favorites by following this link: