We have a winner! The asteroid's new name is: Bennu.
The winning entry came from Mike Puzio, a nine-year-old from North Carolina. Mike argued that the Touch-and-Go Sample Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm and solar panels on OSIRIS-REx look like the neck and wings in drawings of Bennu, which Egyptians usually depicted as a gray heron.
Justification for the name:
"Bennu was a large heron and the living symbol of Osiris. The winged OSIRIS-REx and its heron-like TAGSAM also evoke attributes of Bennu, as does the egg shape of the asteroid itself. Bennu means 'The Ascending One', 'to shine' and suits the NEO which will shine in our skies in 2023 at the return of OSIRIS-REx."
What do you want to see next in space?
"Fly a million more missions, to go to other galaxies, and to send astronauts to Mars!!"
We received more than 8000 entries from all over the world in the Name That Asteroid contest, and we can finally announce the winner. The asteroid formerly known as 1999 RQ36 is now formally named (101955) Bennu, for a heron associated with the Egyptian god Osiris.
In this week's Hangout, Emily Lakdawalla hosted Mike Puzio and Dante Lauretta in a discussion about the naming of OSIRIS-REx' asteroid target.