A near-Earth asteroid that will be visited by a NASA spacecraft in 2018 now has a more approachable name — “Bennu” — thanks to a North Carolina third-grader.
Nine-year-old Michael Puzio’s suggestion beat out more than 8,000 other entries in an international student contest that sought to rename potentially dangerous asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36, which is the target of NASA’s Osiris-Rex sample-return mission.
“It’s great!” Puzio said when told he won the contest. “I’m the first kid I know that named part of the solar system!”
Bennu (pronounced ben-oo) is an Egyptian god usually depicted as a gray heron. Puzio nominated the name because he thought Osiris-Rex’s Touch-and-Go Sample Mechanism arm (TAGSAM) and solar panels looked like Bennu’s neck and wings, contest officials said. Read more…