And now they want your help to give that target a catchy name. Right now, it goes by (486958) 2014 MU69, an unwieldy amalgam that indicates its number in the minor-planet catalogue and when it was found. Alan Stern, the principle investigator for New Horizons, called that name a "license-plate designator" - way too much of a mouthful for a first meeting.
Whatever NASA picks will only be an informal name, which will be replaced once New Horizons gets a better look at what MU69 actually is-scientists aren't even sure yet how many objects are involved, since recent ground-based work has suggested there might actually be two close neighbors, rather than just one object.
And now, folks, our time to shine has arrived.
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The team at New Horizons already have a bunch of ideas prepared, which now form the basis of the naming campaign, and anyone can already vote for those.
If the current vote leader wins, the object could still be known by a tongue-twister: Mjölnir, the name for the hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder. The campaign to nickname the target is led by Mark Showalter, a New Horizons team member and planetary scientist at the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California; the SETI Institute is also hosting the campaign. If so, two nicknames would be needed. "However, if they are separated by empty space, we will need two names".
The team already has a few possible nicknames picked out, including Año Nuevo (which is Spanish for New Year), Pluck and Persistence, Peanut, Almond and Cashew.
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Nasa and Seti (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence Institute) have called on public votes to help choose a nickname for a large rock which is set to be analysed in their next flyby mission far outside the solar system.
The planned flyby will take place on New Year's Day 2019, and it's going to be yet another historical milestone for the New Horizons spacecraft and space exploration alike.
And when the probe zips past on January 1, 2019, the object will become the most distant object ever to be explored by spacecraft. Since then, it has travelled millions of kilometres towards the Kuiper Belt - a massive disc of rocks, ice and other exoplanets far outside the solar system. Scientists at NASA have started a campaign inviting the public to choose an informal name for the New Horizons mission's next flyby destination, which is going to be the farthest planetary encounter in the history of spaceflight, the USA space agency said on Tuesday.
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