The Trans-Neptunian object 486958 or 2014 MU69 has had several designations and nicknames. According to Phys.org's NASA renames faraway ice world 'Arrokoth' after backlash

Ultima Thule, the farthest cosmic body ever visited by a spacecraft, has been officially renamed Arrokoth, or "sky" in the Native American Powhatan and Algonquian languages, following a significant backlash over the old name's Nazi connotations.

Wikipedia's 486958 Arrokoth says

When Arrokoth was first observed, it was labelled 1110113Y, nicknamed "11" for short. Its existence as a potential target of the New Horizons probe was announced by NASA in October 2014 and it was unofficially designated as "Potential Target 1", or PT1. Its official designation, 2014 MU69 (a provisional designation indicating that it was the 1745th object assigned one for the second half of June 2014), was assigned by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) in March 2015, after sufficient orbital information was gathered. After further observations refining its orbit, it was given the permanent minor planet number 486958 on 12 March 2017.


  1. Exactly how official is the new name Arrokoth? Is there further approval necessary or are 486958 and 2014 MU69 and Arrokoth recognized equally as official names?
  2. Are 486958 and 2014 MU69 and Arrokoth all likely to be used interchangeably in astronomical literature from now on, or will one designation emerge as the most commonly used name?

1 Answer 1


The International Astronomical Union describes this minor planet naming process:

  1. Minor Planet Center assigns provisional designation
  2. MPC assigns permanent designation
  3. Discoverer suggests name
  4. IAU working group reviews name
  5. MPC publishes name

Accepted names become official when they are published, along with their accompanying citations, in the Minor Planet Circulars, issued monthly by the Minor Planet Center.

The last page of the Minor Planet Circular published 2019-11-08 says:

(486958) Arrokoth = 2014 MU69
    Discovered 2014 by M. W. Buie and the New Horizons Search Team.
    Arrokoth is the word for "sky" from the Powhatan language of native people from the Chesapeake Bay region. Institutions in this region played a prominent role in facilitating the discovery and exploration of this ancient and distant object.

so it's as official as it gets. As with these near-Earth asteroids:

we can expect (486958) Arrokoth to displace 2014 MU69 as the prevailing identifier in new publications.

  • $\begingroup$ Okay that seems clear, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 13, 2019 at 7:55

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