Humans like naming things. We named a boat Boaty McBoatface. We named a bunch of animals after dicks. But some things already have perfectly good names. Like a distant rock NASA is tasking us with nicknaming.
Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
New Horizons, the mission that showed us Pluto’s icy heart, is whizzing into the outer reaches of the Solar System. On New Year’s Day 2019, it will approach a small body (or pair of bodies). NASA needs help nicknaming this rock (or these rocks). But here’s the rub: It’s already called (486958) MU69… MU69 for short.
You don’t need me to tell you why MU69 is a nice name, but I will anyway. Sixty-nine is the sex number. It is one of the Good Numbers, along with 420, 666 and 311. We revere 69. We say “nice” afterwards like we say “bless you” after a sneeze.
But Mark Showalter and the New Horizons Science Team have the gall to request a nickname for something already so well-named – and to call MU69 “unexciting”. They have presented a list of markedly un-sexy names such as “Año Nuevo”, “Camalor”, “Mjönir” and “Peanut”. And, if MU69 really is a binary system, the pair of rocks each 20km in diameter might really be 69-ing.
So, join me in giving these distant worlds the nice names they deserve. You can nominate here. And let’s name them something special. Here are some ideas:
- “The 69ers”
- “The Sex Rocks”
- “6” and “9”
Or maybe we just nickname them what we’ve always nicknamed things numbered 69: “Nice.”