Nasa and Seti (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence Institute) have launched a campaign to find a catchy nickname for a large space rock. To do this Nasa and Seti need the help of the public. The large rock is set to be analyzed in Nasa and Seti’s next flyby mission far outside the solar system.
Two years ago Nasa’s New Horizons made its historic trip past Pluto. The craft has been flying further away from the solar system since then. It has traveled millions of kilometers towards the Kuiper Belt. The belt is a large disc of rocks, ice and other exo-planets far outside our solar system.
Nasa recently revealed that by New Year’s Day in 2019, New Horizons is scheduled to fly past a large Kuiper Belt object or a KBO. The rock is officially called 2014 MU69, or MU69. But, now the agency wants to give it a catchier nickname. MU69 is 1.6 billion kilometers from Pluto. Nasa has stated that scientists are unsure of whether MU69 is a single body, a binary pair or a cluster of rocks.
The required details for MU69 will only be acquired once New Horizons completes its flyby. Nasa plans to submit an official title to the International Astronomical Union. The nickname which will be chosen through a voting process will be its working name until the flyby. New Horizons has always been about pure exploration for Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
He said that it sheds light on new worlds as we’ve never seen before. He believes that the close encounter with MU69 will add another chapter flag to this mission’s remarkable story. Stern said Nasa and Seti scientists were excited for the public to pick a nickname for the target. The name should capture the excitement of the flyby. Voting for the name can be done on the Seti site. “Mjolnir” recently had the highest number votes.
According to Norse mythology, Mjolnir is Thor’s hammer. Members of the public are asked to take note that apart from simply voting, it is also possible to submit a new name suggestion. Voting will close on 1 December 2017. The winning name will be announced in January 2018. Name suggestions should encapsulate the mission and the spirit of discovery. The campaign is open to voting for everyone.
Nasa and Seti hope that someone will propose a perfect name for MU69. This will not be the first time that Nasa has held an open ballot for suggestions from the public. Earlier in 2017, a message of hope was voted for by the public and sent to Voyager 1. Voyager 1 is the furthest man-made object from Earth.