Stars Vol.2


Pharos of Alexandria was the name of a lighthouse considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. It led travelers to the city, which housed a  library  containing much of the knowledge of the ancient world. Similarly, MU69 is leading us to knowledge of the ancient past.


“Pinnacle” has two meanings related to the New Horizons mission. It means “a high, pointed rock”, an appropriate description of MU69. It also means “culmination, a point of greatest achievement or success”, which describes the long journey of the New Horizons spacecraft to this destination.

Pluck &  Persistence

These are two remarkable attributes of the  New Horizons  spacecraft after traveling 4 billion miles to Jupiter, Pluto and its five moons, and soon MU69.


Idiomatically, “crossing the Rubicon” is to take an irrevocable step outward, often one which will strongly influence future events. The phrase originates from Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, a  river  in northern Italy, in 49 BCE.


We are viewing MU69 in front of the constellation  Sagittarius. Sagittarius is a centaur, half man and half horse, from Greco-Roman mythology.


Sharazad (Scheherazade) is a legendary storyteller who, through years of gathering knowledge of the world, achieved longevity for herself and the others around her. MU69 has also survived unscathed as an orbiting time capsule, and it will soon tell us stories about our past.

Tangotango &  Tawhaki

In Maori legend,  Tawhaki  is a great hero who climbs into the heavens for his wife, the celestial goddess  Tangotango. In some tales, Tangotango is a creation goddess, mother of the sun and moon. Tawhaki’s climb to the heavens parallels the outward journey of New Horizons, and Tangotango’s story parallels MU69’s role as a witness to the formation of the solar system.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova literally means “new land” or “new Earth”, making it an apt nickname for MU69. Among its many usages, the 1910  Terra Nova Expedition  was one of the first journeys across Antarctica to the South Pole.

Tiamat &  Abzu

In Babylonian mythology,  Tiamat  and  Abzu  are the primordial gods of the salt sea and fresh water. Their marriage creates the cosmos. The story echoes our modern understanding that water plays a critical role in the origin of life on Earth. Their names are perfect for a binary object. The connection to a creation myth makes them eligible as the permanent name(s) for MU69.


A cold Italian dessert to enjoy following a main course. Similarly, MU69 is our small, frozen treat following the feast that was the Pluto encounter. Note that the brown color of Tiramisu might be a good match for the dark, reddish tint of MU69.


Capital planet in  Isaac Asimov‘s  Foundation  series of science fiction novels. The Library of Trantor indexed the entirety of human knowledge.

Ultima Thule

A distant, unknown land; the extreme limit of travel or discovery.  Thule  (pronounced thoo-lee) was a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography. Ultima Thule means “beyond Thule”, i.e., beyond the borders of the known world. MU69 is humanity’s next ultima Thule.


Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is the largest individual rock on planet Earth, an  inselberg  or “island mountain.” It is about one tenth the size of MU69. Uluru is featured prominently in the origin myths of Australia’s native peoples, and so is appropriate as the destination for our mission to understand the origins of our solar system.

Wynken, Blynken, & Nod

Three children who boarded a wooden shoe at night and went sailing and fishing across a sea of stars, from a popular 1889 children’s poem by  Eugene Field. An evocative image for New Horizons sailing toward MU69.


Z’ha’dum is a fictional planet from the TV series  Babylon 5  (1994–1997). Like MU69, it is a very distant world, although Z’ha’dum is located at the edge of the galaxy, rather than at the edge of our solar system.



Monolith has a variety of meanings. In geology, it is a feature composed of a single massive rock. In other contexts, it refers to a large rock serving as a pillar or monument. In the 1968 film and novel  2001: A Space Odyssey, the  monoliths  were mysterious objects that marked major breakthroughs in the progress of the human species.


Niflheim, was one of the two primordial realms in Norse mythology. It was imagined to be cold and dark, much like MU69. Its counterpart is  Muspelheim, the realm of fire, in much the same way that MU69 is a distant companion of the Sun.


Nubbin is an English word meaning “small lump or residual part”. This is appropriate for a tiny, distant world left behind when the solar system formed.


Olaf is a common name from Norse tradition. It means “relic” or “ancestral heritage”. Norse names are particularly appropriate for a cold, icy body like MU69. MU69 is a “relic” from the time when our solar system formed.


Mount Olympus is the highest point in Greece and a  World Biosphere Reserve. In mythology, it was the dwelling place of Zeus and the major Greek gods. It was also the home of the  muses, inspirational goddesses of literature, science and the arts.


Pangu is the first living being in some Chinese mythologies. As a character in an origin mythology, the name could potentially be approved by the  IAU  as a permanent name for MU69. Pangu arose from the opposing principles of  Yin and Yang, two nicknames that would work well if MU69 is found to be a binary.


The region of Argentina and Chile where the New Horizons Occultation Team obtained  crucial advance observations of MU69, which suggest it to be a binary. This name honors the international spirit of planetary exploration and the generous help provided by the Patagonian people. Patagonia includes Cape Horn, the cold remote end of the South American continent, and a landmark in the history of exploration.

Peanut, Almond, Cashew

A contact binary is often shaped like a peanut. If other bodies are found, we can name them after the type of nut they most closely resemble.


Petra is derived from the Greek word “petros”, meaning “rock”. It is also the name of a  UNESCO  World Heritage archeological site in modern-day Jordan, most famous for its rock-cut architecture dating back to c. 300 BCE. The site was known as a place where Eastern and Western cultures crossed paths. The name seems apropos for a distant “rock” that will teach us about our planetary pre-history.

Descriptions of the Nominees

Here is the complete list of names we voted on, including the dates during which they appeared on the ballot.

Note that we removed names occasionally to make room for new names. The dates during which each name appeared on the ballot are listed here. See our Vote Tally pages for a ranking of the most popular names.


Abeona was the Roman Goddess of outward journeys and protector of travelers. She was also thought to watch over a child’s first steps and to protect children when the first go out to explore the world around them. The name is apt as the destination of New Horizons as it journeys deep into the Kuiper Belt.

Año Nuevo

This is “New Year” in Spanish. It recognizes that the MU69 flyby is on New Year’s Day, 2019. It is a forward-looking name for space exploration. If MU69 turns out to be two bodies, we can call them “Año” and “Nuevo”.


A’Tuin is a giant turtle who carries  Discworld  on his or her back in a series of humorous fantasy novels by  Terry Pratchett. A’Tuin’s journey through the cosmos is a central part of the Discworld creation myth and a topic of endless speculation for the inhabitants of this world.


Camalor is the fictional city of an alien species living on a small, cold world in the Kuiper Belt. It appeared in the 1993 novel  Camelot 30K, by  Robert L. Forward.

These are the names of Mt. Everest in Tibet and Nepal. Like MU69, Everest is a cold, distant place and a challenge to reach. Chomolungma is translated as “Mother of the World”, echoing our hopes that MU69 will help us to understand the origins of our solar s.ystem.


Located in Alaska, Denali is the tallest mountain peak in North America. Its name means “Great One” in the language of the native  Koyukon  people.


In ophthalmology, the far-point is the most distant point at which the eye sees clearly. For MU69, it describes humanity’s most distant planetary encounter and also the clear view and new knowledge that we will obtain.

Huginn & Muninn

In Norse mythology, these two ravens explore the world and bring information to  Odin. As gatherers and preservers of knowledge, they are an apt metaphor for New Horizons gathering information and for MU69 preserving knowledge about solar system formation.

Kibo, Mawenzi, Shira

These are the three peaks of  Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. The journey of New Horizons to MU69 brings to mind climbers reaching for high, cold mountain summits.

Lewis & Clark

In 1803, President Jefferson commissioned  Meriwether Lewis  and  William Clark  to  explore the US west. With the cooperation of the native peoples, the company returned in 1806 with a wealth of new knowledge about a region previously unknown to westerners.


Mawu-Lisa is the name of an androgenous creator god in some African and Afro-Caribbean traditions. Sometimes the name is split into  Mawu  and Lisa, separate female and male spirits, who worked together to create the world. This name is ideal for MU69, where the we could use Mawu-Lisa for one body or Mawu and Lisa for a two. As names from a creation myth, these could potentially be approved as formal names for MU69 by the  IAU.


Many societies have constructed structures out of large stones, called megaliths. Megalithic structures are found in all parts of the world dating back to prehistory, and stand today as monuments to human ingenuity.


This is the name of  Thor‘s hammer in Norse mythology. A contact binary could have a shape resembling a hammer. The mythology of a northern culture

Introducing “Ultima Thule” : NASA’s Ultimate Destination in the Kuiper Belt!

NASA and the New Horizons team are pleased to announce that our target body in the Kuiper Belt, formally known as “(486958) 2014 MU69“, is being nicknamed Ultima Thule. The name comes from medieval mapmakers, where Thule (pronounced “thoo-lee”) was a distant and unknown island thought to be the northernmost place on Earth. “Ultima Thule” (which translates as “farthest Thule” or “beyond Thule”) has come to be used as a metaphor for any mysterious place “beyond the borders of the known world”. This is an apt metaphor for the tiny object, four billion miles away, that will be the next destination of the New Horizons spacecraft.

The name was nominated independently by about 40 participants in the Frontier Worlds campaign, and was ranked very highly in the voting. Ultima Thule will serve as the unofficial nickname for MU69 through the flyby on New Year’s day, 2019. Later in 2019, we will work with the International Astronomical Union to establish a formal, permanent name for the body.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the naming campaign! Now join us on our ultimate journey.

–Mark Showalter and the New Horizons Science Team

Voter’s Guide

Here is the complete list of names we voted on, including the dates during which they appeared on the ballot.

Note that we removed names occasionally to make room for new names. The dates during which each name appeared on the ballot are listed here. See our Vote Tally pages for a ranking of the most popular names.

We are grateful to everyone who has participated in the Frontier Worlds naming campaign for MU69. The New Horizons Project and NASA are already starting to review the results of the campaign. We hope to announce the informal name for MU69 soon.

The campaign involved 115,000 participants from 193 nations. We received over 34,000 nominations! The imagination and creativity that went into the nominees was amazing, and I think that is reflected in the 37 diverse names that we placed on the ballot. I regret that we were only able to use a tiny fraction of the nominees, but NASA will review all of the submissions before making its selection.

Wanted: A Personalized License Plate in the Kuiper Belt

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.