I Kid You Not caught up with Aditya Arjun Anibha, one of the students who discovered an Asteroid!
Here’s all about it.
The NASA Citizen Science Project, which is a collaboration between scientists and citizens, has students make important scientific discoveries. In 2020, 18 new asteroids were discovered by Indian students as part of the ‘International Asteroid Discovery Project’, conducted by STEM and Space, an organisation working towards the learning of astronomy and space science in India, along with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) as part of a NASA citizen science project.
I Kid You Not: Who participated in this?
About 150 students from across India participated in this project. There were 372 preliminary discoveries of asteroids, out of which 18 were confirmed as discoveries of asteroids.
Here’s our interview with Aditya Arjun Anibha from Genesis Global School, one of the 18 students who discovered two provisional near-earth asteroids: 2020 JS8 and 2020 JU11
I Kid You Not: What are Near-Earth asteroids?
Aditya: Near-Earth Asteroids are rocky bodies much smaller than planets that orbit the sun close to or crossing the Earth’s orbit.
I Kid You Not: How did you make this discovery?
Aditya: These asteroid searches are highly specialised month-long projects involving research into a large number of images taken of space by the Pan Starrs telescope in Hawaii.
As a student researcher, I used a software called “Astrometrica” to find asteroids in these images and also research their properties like how bright they are or how straight their trajectory and direction are.
After finding each asteroid, I wrote a report and sent it to the telescope space agency who would check my discovery. If it seems like an asteroid, it is listed as a “Preliminary” discovery.
I Kid You Not: How much do we know about these asteroids? What do ‘preliminary’ and ‘provisional’ mean?
Aditya: “Preliminary” discovery is the first, original observation of a new asteroid. The asteroid must be observed many more times within the next 7-10 days and viewed for many months. If it is, then the discovery is changed to “provisional” status by the Minor Planet Center (MPC). Asteroid discoveries with provisional status are kept in the MPC database for many years until the orbit is calculated.
As one of the citizen scientist discoverers, I will name these two asteroids which will be formally numbered and recorded in the Minor Planet Catalog (MPC) by the International Astronomical Union. These will be forever written in space exploration history.
I Kid You Not: Who did you collaborate with?
Aditya: I participated in the STEM & Space Asteroid Search Campaign in teamwork with NASA, the International Astronomy Search Collaboration (IASC), STEM & Space India, Pan-STARRS etcetera. These two asteroids were part of only 11 discoveries from the entire campaign which had many other groups and thousands of preliminary (unconfirmed) discoveries.
You can also add to science and astronomy by joining a campaign yourself, and maybe even discovering an asteroid!
Aditya Arjun Anibha is a grade 12 student who has a passion for space sciences and engineering, along with a keen interest in programming and AI. He has worked on and participated in several STEM & Space related projects and competitions at both the national and international level, winning many accolades for the same. Aditya has also undertaken numerous social initiatives that have benefited many facets of society before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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