Help nickname NASA's next flyby target

Artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flying by 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1 2019

NASA's New Horizons mission needs a catchier nickname for its next destination. Submissions and voting open today and will close on December 1, 2017 at noon Pacific Time.Since completing its flyby of Pluto past year, New Horizons has set course towards MU69, a small object in the Kuiper Belt.

NASA also recommends submitting two or more names that go together, since preliminary observations have indicated that MU69 might be a binary, or two astronomical bodies harnessed together by their mutual gravitational forces. The reason is because the object will get plenty of attention in the coming years. The deadline is December 1. So far, Mjölnir, a.k.a. Thor's Hammer, is in the lead, according to the latest vote tally. "We're pleased to bring the public along on this exciting mission of discovery".

It's true that NASA may not have been thinking about some of the more ill-advised internet naming schemes in recent years, but there are some safeguards in place to assure that the agency won't end up calling MU69 Plutoy McPlutoface or something like that.

Nasa will announce the victor in January 2018. That basically assures that names deemed too ridiculous will be weeded out.

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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.

Whatever NASA chooses won't be MU69's official name. All languages are fair game, so long as they're written using the Latin alphabet, but researchers do say they're "particularly interested in nicknames that are appropriate for the first exploration of a cold, distant, ancient world at the outer frontier of the solar system".

NASA will submit a formal name (or names) to the International Astronomical Union after the flyby, based on whether MU69 turns out to be a single body, binary pair or other system.

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