The most distant world ever explored – four billion miles away – finally has an official name: Arrokoth.
That means “sky” in the language of the Native American Powhatan people, Nasa said.
Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped body on New Year’s Day, three and a half years after exploring Pluto.
At the time, this small icy world a billion miles beyond Pluto was nicknamed Ultima Thule given its vast distance from us.
“The name Arrokoth reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies,” lead scientist Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute said in a statement, “and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own.”
New Horizons is operated from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. The Hubble Space Telescope — which discovered Arrokoth in 2014 — has its science operations in Baltimore.
The New Horizons team got consent for the name from Powhatan tribal elders and representatives, according to Nasa. The International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Centre approved the choice.
Arrokoth is among countless objects in the Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune. New Horizons will observe some of these objects from afar as it makes its way deeper into space.