On Jan.1 2019, New Horizons made history with the first flyby New Horizons Mission Reveals Entirely New Kind of World called Ultima Thule. The distant world was named as Ultima Thule (which means “beyond the known world”).
The object was subsequently designated 2014 MU69, located beyond the orbit of Neptune. Now, following a significant backlash over the old name’s Nazi connotations, the farthest object visited by a spacecraft, has been officially renamed Arrokoth, or “sky” in the Native American Powhatan and Algonquian languages.
The name Ultima Thule sparked a backlash, however, because far-right German occultists co-opted it in the early 20th century as the fabled ancient northern country of the “Aryan” people. Furthermore, the Thule society later became Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, and the term remains popular in alt-right circles: it is, for example, also the name of a Swedish white-power rock group.
The New Horizons team chose the new name and ratified by the International Astronomical Union, was announced in a ceremony at NASA headquarters on Tuesday.
Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, said, “The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own.”
“That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we’re honored to join with the Powhatan community and people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery.”
Ocean McIntyre, a NASA science assistant, added: “Arrokoth is far better of a name for MU69 than Ultima Thule. I’m glad that the old moniker didn’t make the cut. Welcome to the newest member of the named solar system bodies—Arrokoth!”