Because letting the public name things has always gone well in the past.
NASA is letting the public vote for the nickname for an object in the Kuiper Belt, just past the planet Neptune at the edge of our solar system. The Kuiper Belt is full of space objects similar to the Asteroid Belt, but with icier formations of methane, ammonia, and water.
The object in question is a billion miles past Pluto and is currently called “(486958) 2014 MU69”, or “MU69” for short. Instead of what NASA calls the object’s “license plate number,” they want the public to give the formation a nickname until they fly by the object on Jan. 1, 2019.
When the New Horizons spacecraft flies past the object, NASA will officially name it something that will be presented to the International Astronomical Union, but until then it is up to you, science lover, to name the far-out object.
This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft. The space probe whipped past Pluto in 2015 and is headed to 2014 MU69 for an attempted 2019 flyby of the tiny, icy world on the edge of the solar system.
“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,” Alan Stern, New Horizons’ principal investigator said on the NASA website.
NASA has a list of some of the names suggested so far, and a ranking for the votes, including Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer, currently in the lead), Z’ha’dum (a fictional planet from the TV series “Babylon 5”), and Peanut/Almond/Cashew. No Spacey McSpaceFace in sight.
An artist’s rendering of an object, called Quaoar, found in the Kuiper Belt 4 billion miles from the Sun.
(NASA and G. Bacon/Getty Images)
The campaign will close at 3 P.M. EST on December 1 and the space agency will reveal the selection in January, a year before the intended trip.