Attention all you nerdy, witty and/or alliteration experts — NASA has a challenge for you.
Apparently, the spacecraft that did a little surveying of Pluto two years ago, known as New Horizons, now has its sights set on a new solar object well beyond Pluto. That object is currently being classified as 2014 MU69. Pretty boring, huh?
And therein lies the challenge brought to you by NASA … renaming that new object or planet or whatever it is.
NASA has opened a naming contest, and you only have until Dec. 1 to get your suggestions in. But first, you should probably be given some idea what the new place is like.
According to the NASA research team holding the contest, 2014 MU69 is about 4 billion miles away and is thought to be a tiny, icy object located at the very edge of the solar system.
There is also a chance, they claim, that the potential planet could actually be two objects — either frozen together or possibly even separate and orbiting one another. Which means, in that case, two names will be chosen.
If there is a glitch in the contest, it is this: the winning name(s) will only be temporary. According to NASA, a more formal, permanent name will be attached to whatever the research team sees when New Horizons does a flyby in 2019.
I should warn you, if you are already thinking of the name Ice Planet, don’t. It’s taken — in the form of a 2001 Canadian-German science-fiction movie written by M.G. Conford, directed by Winrich Kolbe and staring the likes of Wes Studi, Reiner Schöne, Sab Shimono, James O’Shae, Amber Willenborg and Rae Baker. Ummmmm … who?
If you’ve never heard of it — or them — there is a good reason. It was terrible. It was in the same vein as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” only waaaaaaay worse. In fact, some television executive had the brilliant idea to turn “Ice Planet” into a TV series in 2005 … but it never made it because, well, it was terrible.
So, now that Ice Planet is out, what now?
Well, if it were ME entering the contest — and I’m not so sure I won’t be —there are a number of ways to attack this challenge. You can certainly come up with something playing off the icy aspect or the tiny aspect or even the fact there may be two worlds together. You can focus in on actual words or make one up to name the object. You can name it after a significant other if you need something for brownie points (though Icy Isabella or Tiny Tricia doesn’t sound terrific) or you can take the letters represented by 2014 MU69 and rearrange them into some kind of galactic word. Perhaps name it after your favorite adult beverage, like Grey Goose Over Tiny Ice … or something.
My choice might be to take a journey into Latin translations.
Icy is gelidus.
Earth is terra.
In is apud.
Pairs is pedicellis gracilibus.
And there is my contest entry. If there is but one new world, it will be Gelidus Terra; if there are two adjoined, it will be Gelidus Terra Apud Pedicellis Gracilibus.
If anyone wants to steal that entry, feel free. But if it gets chosen, and there is an actual prize, I would insist that we split it — especially if it’s a trip for two to Gelidus Terra. And if it’s a trip for two to Gelidus Terra Apud Pedicellis Gracilibus, then you can have one world and I’ll rule the other one.
But if you want to enter your own nickname, you need to get to work. You only have 20 days — and a few of those days will be filled with football and massive amounts of tryptophan, so your time is short!
And if you so choose, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you what your ideas are and how you arrived at them. Good luck.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.