Indian adolescents explore asteroid near Mars transferring toward Earth

James Marshall
January 20, 2021

And even when it does inch nearer to Earth's orbit, it still won't be that close, according to officials who say that the asteroid's anticipated trajectory would place it further away from Earth than the moon.

The body, named HLV2514, was detected by them as part of an global campaign and has been classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), which means it will be passing by our planet in the future.

Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani, both enrolled in 10th grade at the P.P. Savani Chaitanya Vidya Sankul school in the Indian state of Gujarat, initially made the discovery in June; however, it wasn't until July 25 that private institute SPACE India announced the development.

During this two-month-long project, the images of the asteroid were taken by Pan Starrs telescope in Hawaii and students used advanced software and techniques to look for asteroids. They were working on a project by Space India and NASA. 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 Search training program they were part of was conducted by SPACE India in partnership with a NASA-affiliated citizen scientist group called the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC). After the analysis was over, the details were sent out to NASA. Students then searched for moving objects in the pictures.

Currently, the asteroid is circling Mars, and does not remain a threat to Earth.

Two Indian schoolgirls have discovered an asteroid which is slowly shifting its orbit and moving towards Earth. 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.

Asteroids are small rocky objects that usually orbit the sun, but may change their course over time.

Vekariya said pupils could not celebrate the discovery, due to the pandemic, but added: "This was a dream".

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