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Science and Technology [Paper-II]: Technology in Space


  • Ultima Thule, the farthest cosmic body ever visited by a spacecraft, has been renamed Arrokoth, or “sky” in the Native American Powhatan language.
  • It was renamed, following a backlash over the previous name’s Nazi connotations.
  • NASA’s New Horizons team proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center, the international authority for naming Kuiper Belt objects.

Earlier Names

  • It was provisionally named 2014 MU69 based on the year of its discovery.
  • It was given the nickname ‘Ultima Thule’ in 2018, following public suggestions made to NASA.

Why the name was changed?

  • “Ultima Thule” was the subject of controversy.
  • It references a mythical distant land, but the term had also been used by a precursor to the Nazi party.
  • The new name avoids those negative connotations.

About Arrokoth

  • It is a trans-Neptunian object located in the Kuiper belt.

  • It was discovered in 2014 by a New Horizons team using the powerful Hubble Space Telescope.
  • It was surveyed by the NASA spaceship New Horizons in January, 2019.
  • According to the survey, it consisted of two spheres stuck together in the shape of a snowman.
  • It belongs to a class of Kuiper belt objects called the “cold classicals”, which have nearly circular orbits with low inclinations to the solar plane.

[Source: Indian Express, NASA]

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