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Schoolgirls from Surat discover earth-bound asteroid

Surat schoolgirls Radhika Lakhani (14) and Vaidehi Vekariya (15) discovered the asteroid, which they named HLV2514. The asteroid is currently close to the orbit of Mars — but in 1 million years, it will change its orbit and move closer to Earth.

The girls were participating in a project by Space India and International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC), a NASA-affiliated citizen scientist group. Students across India were taught how to spot celestial bodies using software which analyzes images collected by NASA’s PAN Star telescope positioned at the University of Hawaii.

Paul Chodas of the Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said that it’s unusual for human eyes to discover asteroids. Algorithms typically do the hard work of spotting an unexpected object moving across the frame.

Asteroids and comets pose a potential threat to Earth. In 2013, an asteroid heavier than the Eiffel Tower exploded over central Russia, leaving more than 1,000 people injured from its shockwave.

Vekariya said, “This was a dream. I want to become an astronaut”, while Lakhani added: “I don’t even have a TV at home so that I can concentrate on my studies.”