Forget an A+ — two teenage girls in India far surpassed getting an excellent grade when they happened to stumble upon an Earth-bound asteroid.
Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani, Grade 10 students from the city of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat, were participating in a joint SPACE India and NASA project, the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC), which allows students to analyze images taken by a telescope located at the University of Hawaii.
Upon close inspection of the imagery, they discovered an asteroid heading toward Earth, which they promptly dubbed HLV2514. It won’t be officially named until NASA confirms its orbit, said SPACE India, the private institute where the two teens received training.
Aakash Dwivedi, SPACE India senior educator and astronomer, told CNN that students across India were taught how to spot celestial bodies using software while analyzing the images. Basically, students searched for moving objects in the pictures.
“We started the project in June and we sent back our analysis a few weeks ago to NASA,” said Vekariya, 15, to CNN. “On July 23, they sent us an email confirming that we had identified a near-Earth object.”
“This was a dream. I want to become an astronaut.”
Fourteen-year-old Lakhani, the other student, said she was working hard on her education. “I don’t even have a TV at home so that I can concentrate on my studies.”
The asteroid’s orbit is presently near Mars but is shifting toward Earth. Yet it will take about 1 million years before it gets closer to Earth and even then, it will be 10 times the distance between our planet and the moon.
Asteroids and comets pose a potential threat to Earth, and scientists discover thousands of them each year. In 2013, an asteroid heavier than the Eiffel Tower exploded over central Russia, leaving more than 1,000 people injured from its shockwave.
— With files from Reuters