NASA has renamed a faraway ice planet after a major backlash over the name’s Nazi link.
The farthest cosmic body ever visited by a space probe, which orbits somewhere in the Kuiper Belt, about a 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto, was surveyed by the NASA spaceship New Horizons in January, with images showing it consisted of two spheres stuck together in the shape of a snowman.
Its technical designation is 2014 MU69, but the NASA team nicknamed it “Ultima Thule” after a mythical northern land in classical and medieval European literature.
But then it began: the name sparked an angry reaction as it was co-opted by far-right German occultists in the early 20th century as the fabled ancestral home of “Aryan” people. NASA has apologized: “Not enough due diligence was done in naming cosmic body Ultima Thule”. The icy rock has now been renamed “Arrokoth”, a Native American word for ‘sky’.