New Horizons’ next target has been dubbed Ultima Thule

The name was chosen from about 34,000 submissions

Ultima Thule

ULTIMATE DESTINATION  NASA has chosen Ultima Thule as the name of the next destination of the New Horizons spacecraft, depicted in this artist’s impression as a binary system.

Steve Gribben/SwRI/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/NASA

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.

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