NASA did not “rename” 2014 MU69

I must have read and heard a hundred times in the past day that NASA has renamed the Kuiper Belt Object 486958  from “Ultima Thule” to “Arrokoth”, because of the Nazi connotations of the original name.

Just google with the keywords “NASA renamed object”. New York Times. CNN. Fox News. New Scientist. phys.org. The Independent. Spacedaily.com. And so many others. They all run articles claiming, though the wording varies, that “NASA renamed the object” following a backlash due to the originally bestowed name.

To their credit, some did get it right. NASA, obviously. The Verge did. So, what’s the problem with those others? 

Screenshot of my google search showing list of global news outlets making false claims concerning the naming of 486958 Arrokoth

Fact is: It just ain’t so. 

486958 Arrokoth has not been renamed, for the simple reason that it hadn’t previously been named.

The official naming took place on 12 November 2019 (Link to NASA press release). When a celestial body is discovered, the individuals or teams who discovered it are entitled to propose a name. The name proposed by the discoverer(s) is then accepted (or not) by the authority in charge, which is the International Astronomical Union (IAU), not NASA. See here for the naming conventions of celestial bodies. 

So NASA does not have the authority to name 486958 Arrokoth, and they would not have the authority to rename it, and they did neither. Period. 

Michael Khan

Ich bin Luft- und Raumfahrtingenieur und arbeite bei einer Raumfahrtagentur als Missionsanalytiker. Alle in meinen Artikeln geäußerten sind aber meine eigenen und geben nicht notwendigerweise die Sichtweise meines Arbeitgebers wieder.

3 Kommentare

  1. The Wikipedia entry for Ultima Thule/Arrokoth has an extensive subchapter on the naming issues. It really contains everything. See –> here

    • Danke für die Klarstellung.

      Die “Umbenennung” war mal wieder ein typisches Beispiel dafür, dass sich sensationalistische Falschmeldungen im Netz schneller und weiter verbreiten als fundierte Informationen und dass auch seriöse Medien zunehmend diesem Trend erliegen.

      Fakebook lässt grüßen.

      rok

    • The Wikipedia article correctly states that:

      Prior to the ceremony, the name [Arrokoth, insertion mine] was accepted by the IAU’s Minor Planet Center on 8 November 2019

      However, wikipedia does not make it unmistakably clear to everyone that the authority to name a body resides solely with the IAU, not with anyone else and therefore not with NASA.

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