Whether or not you spend much time worrying about 1999 RQ36, the asteroid that might hit Earth in a couple hundred years, surely everyone agrees: If a giant formation of rock and space detritus is going to smash us all to kingdom come, it would be nice to at least be properly introduced first.
To this end, as well as for the purposes of teaching children about space and the ways it can kill you, Bill Nye’s Planetary Society, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, and the University of Arizona have teamed up to hold an asteroid naming competition. For kids. Kids who want to not only contemplate planetary doom, but get really hands-on involved in it.
So please pass on a form to those you know under 18, and make sure they are familiar with the ground rules. First of all, the deadline is December 2, 2012, although in a larger sense the deadline is the late 22nd century (at which point we assume kids will be even more interested in the asteroid that’s about to smash them, but maybe they’ll be too distracted by their brain-implant iPhones and hoverboards to give it a name). Names can’t be more than 16 characters long, can’t be similar to any other astronomical object (no “Moonscraper” or “Overly Loving Star Pal”), and they also can’t be offensive (“You Stupid Fucking Rock” won’t do, and is too long anyway.) And here’s another rule: The asteroid’s new name “should be from mythology,” although the “mythology of any culture is acceptable.”
Hmm. We wonder if there’s a culture out there that has a God of Annoying Uptight Pretentious Nerds. Let’s name the asteroid after him!