Name that Asteroid Contest !

You might have named a child many times. But have you ever wanted to name a planet or a star or even an asteroid?

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will fly to an asteroid in 2016 and return to the Earth in 2023 with sample (at least 60 grams) to Earth. The asteroid is called 1999 RQ36 at present. And The Planetary SocietyMIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and University of Arizona are asking students all around the world to suggest better name this asteroid.

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at asteroid 1999 RQ36.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/UA

The contest is open to kids under the age of 18.  To enter, parents or teachers must fill out an online entry form with the proposed name and a short explanation of why that name is a good choice.

Asteroids can’t just be named anything. The International Astronomical Union governs the naming of big and small objects in the solar system and they have guidelines for naming astronomical objects. Here are the guidelines for naming 1999 RQ36:

  • no more than 16 characters long (including any spaces or punctuation);
  • preferably one word;
  • pronounceable (in some language);
  • written using Latin characters (transliterations of names from languages not written using Latin characters are acceptable);
  • non-offensive;
  • not identical with or even too similar to an existing name of a minor planet or natural planetary satellite.

Simulated asteroid image – topography overlaid on radar imagery of 1999 RQ36.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/UA

Enter the competition by December 2, 2012 and get an opportunity to name a part of the solar system. Don’t miss it!

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