As space enthusiasts prep to bid goodbye to the rare comet NEOWISE that has been visible almost all through this month, two girls from India have found another celestial body. The 14-year-olds spent the lockdown discovering an earth-bound asteroid, as announced by SPACE India, an Indian space education institute, in a congratulatory tweet.
The two Grade 10 students, Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani, hail from the city of Surat in the western state of Gujarat. They had taken part in a two-month All India Asteroid Search Campaign led by the educational institute in collaboration with International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC), a NASA-affiliated citizen scientist group.
The students accomplished the discovery by poring over images from the Pan-STARRS advanced telescope in Hawaii, which it has high-grade CCD cameras, and an even higher field of view.
The asteroid is currently near Mars and its orbit is expected to cross that of Earth in about one million years. The asteroid, called HLV2514, will officially be christened only after NASA confirms its orbit, which may take a few years.
“In the last campaign, your team reported HLV2514 as a new asteroid,” said the IASC Director Dr Patrick Miller in an email to the space institute, according to The Times of India. “It is, in fact, a NEO (near-earth object). This NEO is near the planet Mars and over time (~10^6 years), it will become an earth crossing asteroid.”
The girls reportedly tagged around 20 objects, one of which proved to be an asteroid. The two gave it a random name for now but are looking forward to the opportunity to possible name it something else once confirmed.
While Vekariya has said that she wants to become an astronaut when she’s older, Lakhani said she is working hard on her studies at the moment. “I don’t even have a TV at home, so that I can concentrate on my studies,” she told media.
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