NASA renamed the most distant object ever explored, the mysterious Ultima Thule, after a controversy arose that its name was linked to the Nazi party.
Formerly known as "2014 MU69", the celestial object was informally named Ultima Thule by the New Horizons team, following a mythical northern land in classical and medieval European literature, according to Science Alert. However, the Thule Society, founded in 1918, was also the name of a German occult group that would later evolve into the Nazi party.
Since then, NASA has renamed the object Arrokoth, a Native American term meaning "heaven" in the Powhatan / Algonquian language, after obtaining the consent of the Powhatan tribe's elders.
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"The name" Arrokoth "reflects the inspiration to look at the sky and think about the stars and worlds beyond ours," said Alan Stern, principal researcher at New Horizons at the Southwest Research Institute, in a statement. "This desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we are honored to join the Powhatan community and the people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery."
Stern did not refer to the link to the Thule Society as a reason for the new name, but mentioned it during a press conference. "Just because some bad guys like the term, we won't allow them to kidnap it," Stern said, according to The Independent. Ultima Thule is also the name of a Swedish rock group that is supposedly racist, a claim the band has publicly denied on their website.
The new official name was ratified by the International Astronomical Union and announced at a ceremony on Tuesday at NASA headquarters in Washington.
"NASA's New Horizons mission team intended Ultima Thule – representing the concept 'beyond the confines of the known world' – to be a temporary nickname and planned to propose a permanent name after the flyover," said the spokesman. NASA voice Allard Beutel. Fox News by email. "The team chose the word Algonquian / Powhatan Arrokoth as a tribute to the indigenous peoples of the region, critical of the discovery and exploration of the most distant object ever found by spacecraft."
Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said that "graciously accept[ed]"the gift of the Arrokoth name of the Powhatan people.
"Giving the name Arrokoth means the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algorian people of the Chesapeake region," Glaze added in the statement. "His heritage remains a guiding light for all who seek meaning and understanding of the origins of the universe. And the heavenly connection of humanity."
Southwest Research Institute's Marc Buie said the discovery of Arrokoth, located on the Kuiper Belt, an area of frozen bodies far beyond Neptune and 6 billion kilometers from Earth, helped astronomers understand the universe.
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"Data from newly appointed Arrokoth gave us clues about planet formation and our cosmic origins," Buie said in the statement. "We believe this ancient body, made up of two distinct wolves that have merged into one entity, may harbor answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth."
The mysterious 34 km long object (which may have formed after two wolves orbiting each other) had already been described by NASA as a "giant pancake" and a "crumpled nut" after the space agency originally thought it looked a reddish snowman.
In May, NASA unveiled a startling discovery that there are water and "organic molecules" on its surface. It is considered the "reddest object in the outer solar system ever visited by spacecraft", probably due to organic molecules on the surface that contributed to its vibrant color.
Scientists have also discovered new features in Arrokoth, including several bright spots, spots and craters, including an 8-kilometer-long depression that probably formed from some kind of impact. Traveling at approximately 33,000 miles per hour, the $ 720 million New Horizons spacecraft, launched in January 2006, will continue to send data from its Arrokoth air flight until the latter part of summer 2020.
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