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09 November 2017, 12:43 | Justin Tyler
Someone please help NASA come up with a better name for New Horizons' next space target
It is a Kuiper Belt object - an inhabitant of the wide, frozen disk of debris that encircles the outer solar system - and it was discovered in 2014 during a Hubble Space Telescope survey aimed at pinpointing a suitable new target for New Horizons once it was finished at Pluto.
Artist's concept of NASA'sNew Horizons spacecraft streaking past 2014 MU69 - which might be 2 objects orbiting each other - on January 1, 2019.
So that's where you come in.
The US space agency is planning to fly past the space rock system nestled in the Kuiper Belt on New Year's Day in 2019.
So think of some unique, crazy, and wacky names that this tiny world should be called.
Anyway, NASA and the New Horizons team will decide on a favorite and announce the victor in early January. The campaign to collect votes ends on December 1, 2017 and the victor will be announced in January 2018.
The New Horizons spacecraft originally launched on January 19, 2006, and flew by Pluto almost a decade later on July 14, 2015.
NASA also recommends submitting two or more names that go together, since preliminary observations have indicated that MU69 might be a binary, or two astronomical bodies harnessed together by their mutual gravitational forces.
The intrepid spacecraft has been sailing through the cold void of space for more than a decade, and it hasn't had a close encounter with another object since it left Pluto in 2015. This month, NASA set up an online campaign to solicit nicknames for the object.
The SETI Institute in Mountain View, California is hosting the naming campaign, which is being led by Mark Showalter, a member of the New Horizons science team.
The ballot is looking for names that fully encapsulate both the mission and the spirit of discovery that it represents, said Nasa in a report.
It is unclear why NASA representatives did not agree to keep the name "MU69". Many Kuiper Belt Objects have had informal names at first, before a formal name was proposed. "After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this intriguing world, we and NASA will work with the International Astronomical Union to assign a formal name to MU69. We're excited for the public to help us pick a nickname for our target that captures the excitement of the flyby and awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record-distant body in space", said Alan Stern, the New Horizons principal scientist.
When the team encounters MU69, it would check another milestone for the New Horizon mission.
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