You can name New Horizons’ next target

NASA invites the public to submit nicknames for MU69, a distant Kuiper Belt object.
By | Published: November 7, 2017 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
New Horizons is on its way to MU69… can you come up with a better name for this Kuiper Belt object for NASA to use?
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
New Horizons is on its way deep into the Kuiper Belt, aiming for a (probably) binary object about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) farther from the Sun than Pluto. This cold, distant pair carries the official designation (486958) 2014 MU69, called MU69 for short. But now, NASA and the New Horizons team invite you to help nickname this target, which New Horizons will encounter on New Year’s Day 2019.

From now until 3pm EST (12 noon PST) on December 1, you can submit names and vote for your favorites by visiting On the site, you’ll find a submission form, a list of names currently under consideration, and a ranking of the names submitted so far. The campaign to nickname the target is led by Mark Showalter, a New Horizons team member and planetary scientist at the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California; the SETI Institute is also hosting the campaign.

“The campaign is open to everyone,” Showalter said in a press release. “We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69.”

MU69 orbits the Sun at a distance that puts it more than 4 billion miles (6.5 billion km) from Earth. Our best telescope observations to date indicate it’s actually a pair of binary objects, so two nicknames might be necessary, depending on what New Horizons sees as it finally approaches.

MU69 may be a single elongated object (L) or a binary pair (R). Observations aren’t detailed enough yet to tell for sure, so one or two nicknames might be needed.
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Alex Parker
The practice of nicknaming Kuiper Belt objects is common, and “many Kuiper Belt Objects have had informal names at first, before a formal name was proposed,” Showalter said. Some examples include Easterbunny (now Makemake), Santa (now Haumea), and Xena and Gabrielle (now Eris and Dysnomia). 2004 XR190 is still nicknamed Buffy, as no official name has yet been recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

After the flyby — and once more is known about this tiny, dark target — a formal name will be submitted to the IAU. “Until then,” Showalter said, “we’re excited to bring people into the mission and share in what will be an amazing flyby on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019!”