5
Jan

TNO Watch: Arrokoth


Helios’ Astrological Angle on Arrokoth-
What are your boundaries in this life, Heretics? What lines will you not cross? Which Rubicon will you do anything to overcome? These are the questions posed by the most recently named TransNeptunian Object, which happens to have the distinction of being the furthest observed body with a human spacecraft!! We have literally been there! It is so far out, in the cold and the dark, out past the boundaries of the known- and we went and had a look. That is amazing and a testament to the best of what we can be. Anyway, without further ado, here’s Arrokoth!

The Astronomy– 486958 Arrokoth is a trans-Neptunian object located in the Kuiper belt. It is a contact binary 36 km (22 mi) long, composed of two planetesimals 22 km (14 mi) and 15 km (9 mi) across, nicknamed “Ultima” and “Thule”, respectively, that are joined along their major axes. Ultima, which is flatter than Thule, appears to be an aggregate of 8 or so smaller units, each approximately 5 km (3 mi) across, that fused together before Ultima and Thule came into contact. Because there have been few to no disruptive impacts on Arrokoth since it formed, the details of its formation have been preserved. With the New Horizons space probe’s flyby at 05:33 on 1 January 2019 (UTC time), Arrokoth became the farthest and most primitive object in the Solar System visited by a spacecraft. At the time of the New Horizons flyby, the object was originally nicknamed Ultima Thule and was referred to as such in the media from the time. Arrokoth was discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a search for a Kuiper belt object for the New Horizons mission to target in its first extended mission; it was chosen over two other candidates to become the primary target of the mission. With an orbital period of 298 years and a low orbital inclination and eccentricity, Arrokoth is classified as a cold classical Kuiper belt object.

The Myth– Arrokoth was named for a word glossed as “sky”, from the Powhatan language of the Tidewater region of Virginia and Maryland. The pronunciation and meaning of the word, however, are not entirely certain, as the language became extinct in the late 18th century and little was recorded of it. The only record of the word was collected in 1610–1611 by English writer William Strachey, who had a decent ear but bad handwriting, and scholars since have had considerable difficulty reading his notes. The meanings of the words are also often uncertain, as Strachey and the Powhatan had no language in common. Siebert used comparison with other Algonquian languages to interpret Strachey’s handwriting and deciphers Strachey’s records as ⟨arrokoth⟩ ‘sky’ and ⟨arrahgwotuwss⟩ ‘clouds’. He reconstructs these as the word /aːrahkwat/ ‘cloud’, pl. /aːrahkwatas/ (cf. Ojibwa /aːnakkwat/ ‘cloud’), from the Proto-Algonquian *aːlaxkwatwi ‘it is a cloud, it is cloudy’. Given that the first vowel is long (/aː/), that syllable would have been stressed, for ARR-o-koth.

Arrokoth’s name was particularly chosen by the New Horizons team to represent the Powhatan people indigenous to the Tidewater region which included the state of Maryland, where Arrokoth’s discovery took place. The Hubble Space Telescope and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory were both operated at Maryland and were prominently involved in Arrokoth’s discovery. In analogy, the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland is significantly associated with the Powhatan people native to that particular region. With the permission of the elders of the Pamunkey Native American Tribe, the name Arrokoth was proposed to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and was announced by the New Horizons team in a ceremony held at the NASA Headquarters in the District of Columbia on 12 November 2019. During the ceremony, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern justified their naming of Arrokoth, stating:

“ The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies, and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own. That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we’re honored to join with the Powhatan community and people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery. ”

In acknowledgment to the Powhatan people’s significance to the Tidewater region of Virginia and Maryland, Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, asserted that Arrokoth’s name “signifies the strength and endurance of the indigenous Algonquian people” and that their heritage “continues to be a guiding light for all who search for meaning and understanding of the origins of the universe and the celestial connection of humanity.” Prior to the ceremony, the name was accepted by the IAU’s Minor Planet Center on 8 November 2019 and the New Horizons team’s naming citation was published in a Minor Planet Circular on 12 November 2019.

Why It Matters– Okay I could not have a better representative of this new wave of Transneptunians. There is so much to unpack here, and I love all of it. Arrokoth is the boundary of what we have known, and it was given a nickname with severe Nazi connotations, and we’re not going to dive into the Nazi prevalence in NASA (thanks, Operation Paperclip!)- but its amazing that name was rejected for a traditional word to honor indigenous Native American cultures. With permission sought from Elders too! That is massively Uranus in Taurus, and I love seeing it.

There is however some good in the original name, that carries over to the new one. Pushing the boundaries of the known and seeking discovery for discovery’s sake is probably the greatest aspect of humanity. We are curious, seekers, and we want to KNOW. We seek understanding of our universe, and we are willing to put in the work to understand our place in it. Of course, that can be taken to extremes, as the Nazis (god, what is with me and Nazis today?) showed us with the experiments they carried out. This could be something to watch out for with Arrokoth, “the ends justifying the means”. For instance, the medical experiments that were carried out were barbaric, inhumane and nothing but evil- but they advanced medical knowledge and led to breakthroughs that later saved lives. I am in no way defending these actions and they hurt my very soul to know they were committed, but it is inarguable that we benefit now for it. In a world where we benefit so much from the suffering of others (who do you think makes your clothes and puts together your iPhone that needs rare earth minerals which are mined in the poorest parts of the world?) is Arrokoth asking us to look deeper at what we build our world on? Or is it highlighting our tendency to look up with our head in the clouds rather than see what is happening all around us?

Then we have to address the problems of the United States, which is built on the corpses of Native heroes. So many cultures just erased… and replaced with their conquerors. It is important to think of these things and address them as the United States goes into its Pluto Return under some horrifically dark and stormy skies while being led by a petulant tyrant who couldn’t truly lead if the perfect middle east peace solution was pissed out of Putin’s tiny shriveled dick on him. Our position in history has been attained by blood and suffering, and even if you have never committed an atrocity or killed anyone, you still directly benefit from what has gone before. There will be a reckoning, and its happening now. With the other Native Transneptunians, Sedna, Quaoar, Teharonhiawako and Sila-Nunam (Ice, Chaos, Creation, and Air respectively) in addition to Arrokoth, what will we see in the future? Uranus in Taurus will bring an awakening to the land, and as we see more awareness and power returned to its traditional stewards, anything is possible. Time will tell.

This is also one of those I would look to for a marker of astrologers, by the way. There is a certain long view that is needed, a love of the stars and planets and their stories. To truly tell them properly, there must be a love when you look into the darkness and see it made of diamonds. Mind you there is a fair amount of colonizing that happens in the astrological world, what with the army of white girls in floppy hats and secondhand tarot decks who just listened to Stevie Nicks for the first time calling themselves a Bruja on Twitter and claiming that they’re an expert in Vedic Astrology or descended from this ancient witch bloodline. This Transneptunian demands respect, so tell the stories with the reverence they’re due, and dont claim them as your own for clout. Stay in your lane, Becky.

To find out where it shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 486958, for Arrokoth. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Arrokoth affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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