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Wanted: A Personalized License Plate in the Kuiper Belt

posted Nov 6, 2017, 6:56 AM by Mark Showalter   [ updated Nov 6, 2017, 6:59 AM ]
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues every car a license plate. Most contain a meaningless sequence of letters and digits. License plates serve one purpose only, which is to make each vehicle unique. For those of us who crave something more interesting, or at least pronounceable, the DMV gives us another option—a personalized license plate.

In a similar way, the Minor Planet Center (MPC) gives every body in the solar system a unique identifier. The New Horizons spacecraft is now headed toward a small, ancient world in the Kuiper Belt, at the edge of our solar system. The MPC has issued its license plate: "(486958) 2014 MU69". Within the New Horizons science team, we have shortened that to "MU69"; it's an improvement but, in conversation, it still amounts to five meaningless syllables.

The time has come to personalize the license plate for this frontier world. We are asking for your help. We need a nickname, or perhaps several, to talk about the next destination in the ongoing voyage of discovery by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. This is your opportunity to submit your best ideas and to share your opinions about a better way to refer to the body (or bodies!) that we are about to explore.

–Mark Showalter, November 6, 2017