Two Surat students discovered an Earth-bound asteroid while browsing images taken by a telescope belonging to the University of Hawaii, a space education institute said Monday.
The asteroid is currently near Mars and its orbit is expected to intersect with Earth in about a million years, said SPACE India, a private institute where the two 14-year-old girls received training.
“I look forward to … when we have the chance to name the asteroid,” said Vaidehi Vekariya, who added that she wanted to become an astronaut when she is older.
The asteroid, currently known as HLV2514, can only be officially named after Nasa confirms its orbit, a spokesperson for SPACE India said.
Radhika Lakhani, the other student, said she was working hard for her education. “I don’t even have a TV at home so I can focus on my studies.”
Asteroids and comets pose a potential threat to Earth, and scientists are discovering thousands of them every year. In 2013, an asteroid heavier than the Eiffel Tower exploded over central Russia, injuring more than 1,000 in its shock wave.
The duo discovered the object as part of an asteroid search campaign conducted by SPACE India with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC), a group of citizen scientists affiliated with NASA.
IASC director J Patrick Miller confirmed the discovery, according to an email from him to students seen by Reuters.
The girls used specialized software to analyze images taken by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii and made the discovery in June, SPACE India said.
The institute is among the few private space education initiatives in India that have made astronomy popular among students.
Low-cost, innovation-driven Indian space technology has boosted missions to the Moon and Mars.