Do You Have the Perfect Nickname for New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target?


What Awaits New Horizons? Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 is just bright dot in a July 2017 Hubble Space Telescope image (inset), but data gathered from this and other observations of the small, distant world lead scientists to believe NASA’s New Horizons might encounter a fascinating object – or even two objects, like shown in this artist’s impression – when it flies past MU69 on January 1, 2019. Click HERE for Large Image

Mountain View, CA – Today NASA announced a new naming campaign for the next flyby target of the New Horizons spacecraft. At the moment, the target is officially known as “(486958) 2014 MU69”, or “MU69” for short. Hosted by the SETI Institute, Frontier Worlds (frontierworlds.seti.org) is a new website that invites the public to nominate possible nicknames, vote, and track the progress of the various options. Submissions and voting open today and will close on December 1, 2017 at noon Pacific Time.Since completing its flyby of Pluto last year, New Horizons has set course towards MU69, a small object in the Kuiper Belt. On January 1, 2019, MU69 will become the most remote world ever explored by humankind.

The Frontier Worlds naming campaign is being led by Mark Showalter, a SETI Institute Fellow and Senior Research Scientist, who is a member of the New Horizons science team.

Mark also serves as the team's liaison to the Working Group for Planetary Nomenclature (WGPSN) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). This is the organization that has final say about the names of planetary bodies and their surface features.

In early 2015, Mark led the Our Pluto naming campaign, which invited the public to propose names for features on the surfaces of Pluto and its large moon Charon. He is currently working with the WGPSN to obtain formal approval of many of those names.

"Some of the best names for features on Pluto were nominated by members of the public during the Our Pluto campaign," Mark noted. He looks forward to seeing what nicknames emerge from the nominations and voting this time. "I am always amazed by the creativity and imagination of the public."

The New Horizons team will propose a formal name to the IAU after the flyby, when more information is known about MU69. In the meantime, NASA and the New Horizons team will announce a nickname early next year.

Visit frontierworlds.seti.org today to offer your best ideas to nickname MU69. Nominations and voting will close on December 1!

Read the NASA release 


About SETI Institute

Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages expertise in data analytics, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies.  The Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia and government agencies, including NASA and NSF.