While NASA gives all sort of fun names to missions, projects, telescopes – asteroids is not their slickest field. Names like (101955) 1999 RQ36 don’t exactly roll off the tip of your tongue. This is why the people at NASA decided to hold a contest for students, which will decide how an asteroid will be named.
The contest becomes even more important, given that the asteroid has a greater than 0% chance of hitting Earth in the 22nd century – which means 200 years from now, there might be a lot of hype around this asteroid. Of course, the chance is quite small, but of course, people will get all hyped about any chance of an asteroid impact, no matter how small.
The asteroid was discovered by astrophysicists from MIT in 1999; here’s how the contest will work: each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters in length – but every contestant must be under 18 years. Along with the name, people will also submit a 900 characters or less explanation of why they chose the name and what makes it special. An adult must submit the application on behalf of the contestant. You can join the contest HERE. A panel of specialists will review the proposed names, and in the end, the International Astronomical Union’s Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature will pick one of them. So for our under 18 readers: go ahead and send out your suggestions! Share them with us too, if you wish – we’d really love to hear some cooky or insightful suggestions.