Heads up, armchair travelers. NASA is seeking a nickname for a tiny, icy world on the edge of the solar system that's the next destination for New Horizons, the spacecraft that surveyed Pluto. New Horizons whipped past Pluto two years ago, and now it's headed for 2014 MU69—gobbledygook to even the most die-hard scientists. To lighten the mood as New Horizons aims for a 2019 flyby, the research team is holding a naming contest, the AP reports. The deadline is Dec. 1 and a nickname will be chosen by early January.
MU69 is 4 billion miles away and may actually be two objects, either stuck together or orbiting one another. If so, two nicknames would be needed. The nicknames will be temporary. "We would like to use a more memorable nickname when we talk about our target body," NASA explains on the contest page, where people can both suggest nicknames and vote on the winning name. "After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this frontier world, we will work with the International Astronomical Union to assign a formal name to MU69."