And the winner is in. Of the roughly 34,000 submissions sent in by the public, NASA has finally chosen an official nickname for the New Horizons spacecraft’s next destination: Ultima Thule.
New Horizons is scheduled to visit the tiny Kuiper Belt object on New Year’s Day 2019. NASA announced in November that it was seeking public input for a catchier name than the object’s existing moniker: 2014 MU69. Submissions varied wildly, ranging from the mythological Olympus to the much less grandiose Nubbin, defined as a “small lump or residual part” (SN Online: 11/7/17).
The final choice, Ultima Thule (pronounced “thoo-lee”), was announced March 13. It means “beyond the borders of the known world.” The nickname is a nice fit since the object will be the most distant solar system body ever visited.
After the flyby, NASA will submit a formal name to the International Astronomical Union based on whether Ultima Thule is a single object, a binary pair or a multi-object system.