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The most distant object explored is renamed after Nazi controversy

  Ultima Thule renamed arrokoth mu69 with name 1
Composite image of primary contact binary Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 from New Horizons Spacecraft Data NASA

NASA researchers from the New Horizons mission have been named to the most distant object ever explored after political controversy about its original name.

Kuiper Belt Object 201

4 MU69 was previously nicknamed Ultima Thule, a medieval term that means a place outside the borders of the known world. But a new name was called for after criticizing the term's political connotations. The word "Thule" was used historically by Nazi predecessors, who purported to describe the birthplace of the Aryan race. The term is still used in some neo-Nazi and far-right circles today.

To rid the astronomical object of such connotations, it has been given a new name, "Arrokoth." The name comes from a Native American designation meaning "sky" and elders from the Powhatan tribe gave the New Horizons team permission to use it. It is a suitable name because two of the tools used to detect the object, the Hubble Space Telescope and the New Horizons mission, are both operated from Maryland, home to many Powhatan people.

"We graciously accept this gift from Powhatan people," said Lori Glaze, head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, in a statement. "Naming Arrokoth means the strength and endurance of the native Algonquian people of the Chesapeake region. Their heritage is still a guiding light for all who seek meaning and understanding of the origin of the universe and the heavenly connection of humanity. ”

In addition to removing the item from controversy, the New Horizons team agrees that the new name indicates an appropriate meaning for the mission. "The name & # 39; Arrokoth & # 39; reflects the inspiration of looking at the sky and wondering at the stars and worlds beyond our own," said Alan Stern, New Horizon's chief investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, in the same statement. "That 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."

Examination of the distant object revealed information about how planets are created, since objects such as these form planetary building blocks. "Data from the recently named Arrokoth has given us clues about the formation of planets and our cosmic origin," said Marc Buie, of the Southwest Research Institute. "We believe that this ancient body, which consists of two distinct lobes merged into one entity, may contain answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on earth."

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