Name That Space Rock! The asteroid: an ancient hulk of rock idling through space, often sporting an incomprehensible name. Fortunately, the human condition permits us to “soften up” these interplanetary interlopers by giving them more palatable labels. And we have quite a big job ahead of us — only five percent of the 200,000+ asteroids that have been designated with a number have been officially named.
So today, NASA and The Planetary Society have announced an asteroid naming contest focused around a 500 meter wide asteroid called 1999 RQ36 — the target for NASA’s asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx. 1999 RQ36 was the 101,955th asteroid to be discovered and it was spotted in 1999 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project. Another fun fact about 1999 RQ36 is that it is listed on the Sentry Risk Table as a potential Earth impactor. Fun!
In little video released to announce the initiative (below), 1999 RQ36 tries to fill out his name tag in the office, but doesn’t know what to write. His office mates have no clue either. So that’s where you come in! Give the rock a name! Sadly, “Armageddon” or “Battle Toad” probably won’t make the cut, there are some annoying naming guidelines to consider. via The Planetary Society