Two School Girls in India Discovered A New Near-Earth Asteroid


A team of secondary school students from Surat have discovered a near-Earth asteroid while taking part in a space hunt campaign.

The private space education institute that led the campaign, SPACE India made an announcement, congratulating the team of 14-year-old students - Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani on the remarkable astronomical discovery.

The All India Asteroid Search Campaign (AIASC) is organized by SPACE India and the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC), a NASA-affiliated citizen scientist group.

Vekariya and Lakhani were one of the teams in the Phase-1 iteration of the campaign for 2020. During the AIASC Phase-1 2020, the duo discovered the asteroid known as HLV2514. It has been identified as a near-Earth asteroid which is, at the moment, near Mars but is expected to fly-by Earth some millions of years in the future.

According to Times Of India, IASC Director J. Patrick Miller confirmed the discovery via email to SPACE India stating, “In the last campaign, your team reported HLV2514 as a new asteroid. 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 discovery was made in June using images captured by Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) at the Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii. It is a near-Earth object telescope operated by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy to survey the sky using astronomical cameras, telescopes and a computing facility to continuously find objects in space.

The asteroid, HLV2514 is one of many objects found with the help of Pan-STARRS. But still, its orbit is yet to be confirmed by NASA and only after that the object can be named, a SPACE India spokesperson explained to Reuters. One of the discoverers, Vaidehi Vekariya told Reuters in a statement, “I look forward to... when we will get a chance to name the asteroid.”