Science

NASA has finally renamed Ultima Thule to Avoid Any Nazi Reference

While some of you might be wondering what exactly was Ultima Thule, others were drooling over this awesome name. So, what exactly was Ultima Thule? It is the most distant object that has ever been visited by a spacecraft. The name ‘Ultima Thule” actually had a mythological reference to a distant, faraway, mysterious land that is both dry and cold. The craft that visited it was New Horizons, the same spacecraft that took some fantastic pictures of pluto back in 2015. After it took images of pluto, it was further pushed towards the Kuiper belt to reach beyond any spacecraft has ever been.

The object that it encountered initially was 2014 MU69, which the space scientists and the ordinary people decided to name as ‘Ultima Thule.’ New Horizon came across the object on 1st January 2019 and named the same. Later on, people called it realized that the Nazis use the same phrase Ultima Thule to refer to a mythical homeland of the Aryan race. While the term remained in use for a while, many started to raise their questions, and the name was changed again. This time it was named ‘Arrokoth,’ which means the sky in the Powhatan and Algonquian languages.

NASA held this naming ceremony in Washington DC to give 2014 MU69. It’s the new official name. This name was mainly chosen based on the native American culture from Maryland, where the New Horizons control center is based. The data that is received from New Horizon from Arrokoth is still being sent back to the Earth for further research. One of the fascinating things about Arrokoth is its double-lobed structure, which shows signs of a collision of the two objects not so long ago. The collision is being described as gentle. Otherwise, either of the two objects would be seized from existence. Ultima Thule was indeed a beautiful name, but their association with the Nazis made it hard to use anymore.

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Bruce Townsend

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, Associate Editor, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges. I’ve written, online, and in print, for Air & Space, Astronomy, Ars Technica, Discover, Drone360, Gizmodo, Popular Mechanics, and Washington.

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