Teens from Surat spot Earth-bound asteroid HLV2514 in telescope images; IASC verifies discovery

The 14-year-olds discovered the asteroid during the two-month-long nationwide ‘All India Asteroid Search Campaign 2020’ organised by SPACE India and IASC.

Two teenagers from Surat in Gujarat have spotted an Earth-bound asteroid in photographs snapped by a key astronomical telescope in Hawaii.

The 14-year-old students Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani discovered the asteroid during a two-month science programme called the ‘All India Asteroid Search Campaign 2020’. The asteroid is currently on its orbit, close to Mars, and is expected to cross Earth's path in roughly a million years' time, according to a Facebook post by SPACE India, the private space education institute where the girls received their astronomy training.

Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani sharing the limelight after their discovery. Image: SPACE Surat/Facebook

Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani sharing the limelight after their discovery. Image: SPACE Surat/Facebook

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). The Director of the IASC, J Patrick Miller, confirmed the discovery as per an email to the teens, Reuters reported.

Specialised software was used by the duo to examine images taken by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) telescope in Hawaii's Haleakala Observatory. The Pan-STARRS telescope is the world's largest and most powerful digital camera pointed at the sky, and was funded by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observatory program, which tracks down potentially dangerous space rocks hurtling towards Earth.

The asteroid discovery was made in June, as per the SPACE India post. Technically classified as a a Near-Earth Object due to its proximity to Earth, the asteroid has been temporarily dubbed 'HLV2514'. A new, official name may be give once NASA confirms its orbit, a spokeswoman from SPACE India told The Tribune.

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