New Horizons team renames “Ultima Thule” to “Arrokoth”

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The New Horizons team has renamed the Kuiper Belt object that the spacecraft flew past on January 1, 2019 from its informal nickname of “Ultima Thule” to “Arrokoth,” which means “sky” in Powhatan/Algonquian language.

This official, and very politically correct, name has apparently gotten the stamp of approval from the IAU.

In accordance with IAU naming conventions, the discovery team earned the privilege of selecting a permanent name for the celestial body. The team used this convention to associate the culture of the native peoples who lived in the region where the object was discovered; in this case, both the Hubble Space Telescope (at the Space Telescope Science Institute) and the New Horizons mission (at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory) are operated out of Maryland — a tie to the significance of the Chesapeake Bay region to the Powhatan people.

“We graciously accept this gift from the Powhatan people,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Bestowing the name Arrokoth signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquian people of the Chesapeake region. Their heritage continues to be a guiding light for all who search for meaning and understanding of the origins of the universe and the celestial connection of humanity.” [emphasis mine]

It is a good name, especially because its pronunciation is straight-forward, unlike the nickname.

The blather from Glaze above, however, is quite disingenuous. The Algonquian people have had literally nothing to do with the modern scientific quest for “meaning and understanding of the origins of the unverse.” They were a stone-age culture, with no written language. It was western civilization that has made their present lives far better. And it was the heritage of western civilization, not “the indigenous Algonquian people” that made the New Horizons’ journey possible. Without the demand for knowledge and truth, as demanded by western civilization, we would still not know that Arrokoth even existed.


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  • Col Beausabre

    It’s actually a heavy handed attempt to bury a name some whackjobs decided honored the Nazis

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre-
    Good stuff.

    [sounds like a H.P. Lovecraft character.]

    “We graciously accept this gift from the Powhatan people,” said Lori Glaze,…”
    This reminds me of—- whenever I watch something “official” from Canada or Australia, they always pause to honor “the indigenous stone-age people our ancestors persecuted and whose land we stole…”
    This smacks 110% of exactly that, pointless exercise.

  • Questioner

    This entire, linked article is one big, hypocritical illusion of insane political correctness. Not a word about why “Ultima Thule” was dropped as name. They just go over it and present the new name or situation without any explanation. Those, who do or cause this action, should be damned.

  • wayne

    Encounter with Ultima Thule
    Dr. Jeff Moore New Horizons Geology & Geophysics Imaging team leader
    Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture
    November 5, 2019
    “Dr. Moore shares an insider’s view (with great images) of how the mission got there and what we learned at Ultima Thule.”

  • Dick Eagleson

    I agree that the Native American nomenclature is an exercise in pure virtue-signalling. Still, the name chosen also sounds as though it could have come from the language of another famous tribe of warlike tribal barbarians with a bit more “space cred”- the Klingons.

  • wayne

    Star Trek Discovery
    “T’kuvma’s Speech”

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