NASA Renames Ultima Thule as ‘Arrokoth’

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News: NASA has renamed Ultima Thule as ‘Arrokoth, meaning ‘sky’ in the Native American Powhatan language.

Facts:

  • Ultima Thule is a Kuiper Belt object and the farthest object ever explored by any spacecraft. The object is officially named 2014 MU69.
  • It is a contact binary that is single object with two lobes attached gently. NASA dubbed the larger lobe as Ultima and three time’s smaller lobe as Thule.
  • In colour, Ultima Thule has a reddish hue which is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface.
  • NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface.
  • Further, a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits have been observed. The largest depression is an 8-kilometre-wide feature, which researchers have named Maryland crater. It was likely formed from an impact.

Additional Information:

Kuiper Belt:

  • The Kuiper belt occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.
  • It consists of icy objects, which are remnants from the formation of the solar system. Pluto is also a part of the Kuiper Belt.

New Horizons:

  • The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 by NASA. It is the first mission to explore the Kuiper belt.