MU69 is an object - or possibly two objects - floating in the Kuiper belt, Pluto's part of space which is filled with small objects left over from the dawn of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. The Kuiper Belt is full of space objects similar to the Asteroid Belt, but with icier formations of methane, ammonia, and water. "We are pleased to draw the attention of the public to this exciting mission of discovery". NASA wants us to be excited about this mission, and they feel the object's current name, (486958) 2014 MU69, lacks a certain pizazz. "We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the flawless, inspiring name for MU69", said Mark Showalter of the New Horizons science team. It was discovered in 2014 by New Horizons scientists who used the Hubble Space Telescope to find a second target for the spacecraft.
Participants in the naming project can either vote for one of eight names selected by the mission team and/or from a growing list of names submitted by others.
You can submit your suggestion at www.frontierworlds.org or vote for one of the names already being considered.
The U.S. space agency announced that it would be accepting naming nominations for "MU69" through 3 p.m. December 1.
After the flight, NASA and the New Horizons project plan to select an official name to be sent to the worldwide astronomical Union, based in part on whether MU69 as a whole, the binary pair or perhaps a system of several objects.
Among names nominated by participants is "Pangu", which some Chinese mythologies recognize as the first ever living being. "We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the ideal, inspiring name for MU69", he added. The winning name or names will be announced in early January.
"It's a good idea to propose two or more names that go together".
When the New Horizons spacecraft flies past the object, NASA will officially name it something that will be presented to the International Astronomical Union, but until then it is up to you, science lover, to name the far-out object. Now the craft is zooming toward its next target, some billion miles (1.6 billion km) past Pluto, due for a flyby on New Year's Day 2019.
"After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this frontier world, we will work with the International Astronomical Union to assign a formal name to MU69", Showalter added. "Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission's remarkable story".