A rose by any other name: In a NASA contest, a nine-year-old has named asteroid 1999 RQ36 after the Egyptian god Bennu.
1999 RQ36, or Bennu, is an important asteroid for two reasons. First, NASA is sending an unmanned sample return mission to it in 2016. Second, some calculations suggest the asteroid has a 1 in a 1000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2182.
In other naming news, the private space company Uwingu has launched its “Adopt-a-Planet” campaign.
This open-ended campaign gives anyone in the public—worldwide—the opportunity to adopt exoplanets in astronomical databases via Uwingu’s web site at www.uwingu.com. Proceeds from the naming and voting will continue to help fuel new Uwingu grants to fund space exploration, research, and education.