NASA renames faraway ice world after Nazi-link backlash

  • Wednesday 13, November 2019 11:00 AM
Sharjah24 – AFP: Ultima Thule, the farthest cosmic body ever visited by a spacecraft, has been renamed Arrokoth, or "sky" in the Native American Powhatan language, following a backlash over the previous name's Nazi connotations.
The icy rock, which orbits in the dark and frigid Kuiper Belt about a billion miles 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 New Horizons team nicknamed it Ultima Thule (pronounced Tool-ey) after a mythical northern land in classical and medieval European literature described as beyond the borders of the known world.

That 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 -- the term they used to describe proto-Indo-Europeans.

Members of Thule Society founded a political party that evolved into Adolf Hitler's Nazi party, and the term remains popular in alt-right circles.

It is, for example, also the name of a Swedish white-power rock group.

The new official name, which was chosen by the New Horizons team and ratified by the International Astronomical Union, was announced in a ceremony at NASA headquarters Tuesday.

A NASA statement made no mention of the controversy.