Delhi students discover two 'new' asteroids

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 16 2014, 21:00pm hrs
Two 'new' asteroids have been discovered by a team of students from two city schools as part of a nationwide campaign.

Aryan Mishra and Keerti Vardhan from Chinmaya Vidyalaya and Akshat Sharma and Kshitij Jindal from Bal Bharati Public School made the discovery, according to an NGO, which works towards popularising science and astronomy in the country.

"These discoveries are now waiting to be placed in the world's official minor body catalogue maintained by the International Astronomical Union in Paris" said Science Popularization Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) who organized the campaign with International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC).

"Once the discoveries will be reconfirmed the students will get the chance to name the asteroids," it said.

The 'Near-Earth Objects' discovered by the students are asteroids that have been nudged by gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter earth's neighborhood.

"It is therefore important to keep a close watch on these objects for the safety of the Earth," said an official from SPACE, which acts as the nodal agency for organising asteroid search campaign in the country and providing training to students and amateur astronomers for asteroid hunting.

While the discovery by Aryan Mishra and Keerti Vardhan of has been designated as '2014 00372', the finding by Akshat Sharma and Kshitij Jindal of Bal Bharati Public School has been designated as '2014 OU6'.

"It was an amazing experience working on the software. I am really glad that SPACE provided me with this opportunity. I feel privileged for the opportunity given to me" said Akshat Sharma.

Aryan Mishra of Chinmaya Vidyalaya said, "Discovery consists of what everybody has seen, but not which nobody has thought. I never thought that I'll discover any asteroid but I was interested in hunting comets and reading about asteroid."

Last year a team of two students - Shourya Chambial and Gaurav Pati from Amity International School, had discovered a new Main Belt asteroid during Phase II of the campaign. The discovery was named as '2013 LS28'.

"It is a wonderful endorsement of the efforts of the students, their teachers, the school and the team from space. This will surely catapult these students to a global platform to pursue a career out of it," Amit Verma, CEO, SPACE said.

This year, said Verma, marks the fifth year of a countrywide campaign for students, which first began in the year 2010.

Under the project, participants get to access images of the sky taken by 24 inch and 34 inch telescopes positioned in Astronomical Research Institute (ARI) Observatory in the US.

Students search for asteroids after downloading and analysing data with specialized software.

"All observations contribute to the Near Earth Object (NEO) data compiled by NASA and Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)" said a SPACE official.

"The project has provided opportunities to more than 500 students and amateurs in India to discover asteroids and Near-Earth objects," said the official.

He said, so far there has been one comet confirmation, 96 preliminary discoveries and 18 provisional (confirmed) discoveries, amongst which a 'Trojan', an extremely rare asteroid, was also discovered in 2011.

Patrick Miller, Director, IASC congratulated the students in a statement.

"Congratulations! You are a step closer to having the asteroid numbered and placed into the world's official minor body catalog maintained by the International Astronomical Union (Paris)," he said.