Deadline: 2 December, 2012
Open to: Students under age 18 from anywhere in the world
Prize: The Grand Prize winner will have named a part of the solar system! They will also receive other benefits and will be invited to participate in a public video or phone conference with OSIRIS-REx mission team members and the discoverer of the asteroid.
International Contest: Name that Asteroid!
Students worldwide have an opportunity to name an asteroid from which an upcoming NASA mission will return the first samples to Earth. Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission is called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). Samples returned from the primitive surface of the near-Earth asteroid currently called (101955) 1999 RQ36 could hold clues to the origin of the solar system and organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. NASA also is planning a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025. A closer scientific study of asteroids will provide context and help inform this mission.
The asteroid received its designation of (101955) 1999 RQ36 from the Minor Planet Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The center assigns an initial alphanumeric designation to any newly discovered asteroid once certain criteria are met to determine its orbit.
“Asteroids are just cool and 1999 RQ36 deserves a cool name!” says Bill Nye, chief executive officer for The Planetary Society. “Engaging kids around the world in a naming contest will get them tuned in to asteroids and asteroid science.”
The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 2.
Children of employees of The Planetary Society, of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, of the University of Arizona, or of OSIRIS-REx team members, are ineligible to enter.
Eligible entries consist of the following information:
- Proposed name – limited to 16 characters and meeting the naming guidelines
- Justification paragraph – limited to 900 characters, including spaces
- First name of child submitter – first name only, please.
- Name of adult submitter – must be an individual over 18
- Email address of adult submitter – this address will only be used to confirm the entry and communicate the results of the contest unless the submitter opts to receive other communications
- Relationship of adult submitter to child contest entrant (parent/guardian or teacher/mentor) – used to determine whether additional parental consent is necessary for child participation
- Age of contest entrant as of December 2, 2012
- Optionally, entrants are asked to specify their country of residence in order for the Planetary Society to gauge international participation in the contest.
- Optionally, U.S. entrants are asked to specify the zip code of their residence or school in order to gauge domestic participation in the contest.
Asteroids can’t be named just anything, of course. The International Astronomical Union governs the naming of big and small objects in the solar system, and they have guidelines on how to name near-Earth objects like 1999 RQ36.
The Grand Prize winner will have named a part of the solar system! They will also be invited to participate in a public video or phone conference with OSIRIS-REx mission team members and the discoverer of the asteroid.
Both Grand Prize winner and runners-up will see their names, photos, and submitted justification paragraphs posted on the OSIRIS-REx and Planetary Society websites. They will receive a prize package of materials to hand out at their school that may include OSIRIS-REx mission patches, stickers, and posters; copies of Planetary Report Kids; a model of the asteroid; or other fun mission- and space-related items. (Prize package contents are subject to change.) They will receive one year of membership in The Planetary Society. And they will be invited to participate in a Google+ Hangout On Air with Bill Nye the Science Guy.
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. For any questions and concerns which you might have, please use the contacts.
For more information please visit the official website.