Nazis in space! NASA renames farthest cosmic body visited by spacecraft as 'Arrokoth' erasing earlier 'Ultima Thule' moniker due to 'Nazi' links
'Arrokoth', an icy rock, is believed to be a leftover from the solar system's early history and could hold clues to the origin of planets.
The farthest cosmic body ever visited by a spacecraft - an icy rock - has been renamed 'Arrokoth', a Native American term meaning "sky." The renaming follows an uproar over its earlier name, 'Ultima Thule', which had ties to the Nazis.
'Ultima Thule' translates to a distant and mysterious land. During the rise of Hitler, the Nazi party imagined 'Ultima Thule' as a land where the Aryan race began. The alt-right groups continue using the name to this day.
"I had never heard the term 'Ultima Thule' before we had our naming campaign. Beyond the limits of the known world, that's such a beautiful metaphor for what we're doing this year", Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute, who was a part of the naming process, told Newsweek.
It was given the controversial nickname even before NASA surveyed the icy rock earlier this year, using their New Horizons spacecraft. The icy rock - believed to be the leftovers from the solar system's early history - orbits in the dark and frigid Kuiper Belt about a billion miles beyond Pluto. The images released from the encounter showed that the rock resembles a snowman, with two of its spheres sticking together.
Before the spacecraft, the New Horizons team used the powerful Hubble Space Telescope to spot the icy world for the first time in 2014. The new name, 'Arrokoth', was announced at a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, on November 12, after receiving consent from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives.
“The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own”, says Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we're honored to join with the Powhatan community and [the] people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery", says Stern.
'Arrokoth' has a strong association with the region belonging to Powhatan people, says NASA. It was here that the Hubble Space Telescope first spotted the icy world. What is more, the New Horizons mission that studied the icy world is run from Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay region, which is closely associated with the Powhatan people.
The New Horizons which hurtled past 'Arrokoth', has amassed a trove of data that is being relayed to Earth for analysis. So far, we know that the icy world is covered in methane or nitrogen ice, giving it a red tinge.
NASA scientists believe that data collected from 'Arrokoth' may hold clues to understanding the origin of planets in our solar system. “Data from the newly named 'Arrokoth' has given us clues about the formation of planets and our cosmic origins. We believe this ancient body, composed of two distinct lobes that merged into one entity, may harbor answers that contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth”, says Marc Buie, who was a part of the New Horizons team.