The most distant world ever explored 4 billion miles away finally has an official name: Arrokoth. That means "sky" in the language of the Native American Powhatan people, NASA said Tuesday. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped Arrokoth on New Year's Day, 3.5 years after exploring Pluto. At the time, this small icy world 1 billion miles beyond Pluto was nicknamed Ultima Thule given its vast distance from us. The name 'Arrokoth' reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies," lead scientist Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute said in a statement, "and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own." Arrokoth is classed as a "contact binary," made up of two bodies that gravitated toward each other until they touched.
The name was picked because of the Powhatan's ties to the Chesapeake Bay region, the AP reports. New Horizons is operated from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. The Hubble Space Telescope—which discovered Arrokoth in 2014—has its science operations in Baltimore. The New Horizons team got consent for the name from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives, according to NASA. The International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Center approved the choice. Arrokoth is among countless objects in the Kuiper Belt, or vast "Twilight Zone " beyond the orbit of Neptune. AFP notes that the name Ultima Thule was dropped because of its association with far-right German occultists in the early 20th century.
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