When an asteroid is discovered and its orbit is determined, it is given a provisional identification number. Sometime later, the celestial body may be issued a formal name to be listed by the International Astronomical Union. Recently, NASA held a contest inviting students under the age of 18 to name the asteroid number: 101955 199 RQ36.
- The name could not be longer than 16 characters.
- It must be pronounceable in more than one language.
- It could not be considered offensive.
By the time the contest deadline arrived, officials had received more than 8,000 suggestions from school children from around the world.
After reviewing this proposals, judges finally selected the name Bennu which was sent in by 9 year old Michael Puzio from North Carolina. According to officials, what made this name the winner was meaningful history. A mythological name for a large heron, the symbol of Osiris, the name Bennu means “the Ascending One” which brilliantly reflects the fact that in 2023, the asteroid will rise and shine across Earth’s night sky.
In September 2016, NASA will launch a spacecraft to take samples from Bennu. The name of this special mission is OSIRIS-Rex, an acronym for the “Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer.”