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Two bright Indian schoolgirls have discovered an asteroid which is very gradually shifting its orbit and changing course onto a trajectory that will bring it close to Earth.
The two 10th grade students, Radhika Lakhani and Vaidehi Vekariya, were working on a Space India and NASA organized school project, aimed at analyzing asteroids, when they discovered the space rock they've named HLV2514.
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A nationwide asteroid hunt
Lakhani and Vekariya, both from the city of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat, were allowed to analyze images taken by a telescope located at the University of Hawaii as part of the project, which saw students across India take part in learning how to spot the celestial bodies.
Aakash Dwivedi, senior educator and astronomer at Space India, told CNN that the students were taught how to use software that analyzes images collected by NASA's PAN Star telescope. The students were then trained to search for moving objects within the images.
DISCOVERY ALERT!— SPACE India (@Spacian) July 25, 2020
We are proud to announce VAIDEHI VEKARIYA SANJAYBHAI and RADHIKA LAKHANI PRAFULBHAI, two students of P.P. SAVANI CHAITANYA VIDYA SANKUL (CBSE) from Surat with the help of SPACE-AIASC discovered a new Asteroid which is a Near-Earth Object named HLV2514. pic.twitter.com/HXpOvrwxNY
"We started the project in June and we sent back our analysis a few weeks ago to NASA. On July 23, they sent us an email confirming that we had identified a near Earth object," Vekariya, who is 15 years old, told CNN.
No need to worry
While the asteroid is headed closer to Earth, there's no need to fear that a civilization-ending event is on the horizon. The asteroid, which is currently close to the orbit of Mars, will change its orbit over the course of 1 million years to move closer to Earth.
Even when it does get closer to Earth, HLV2514 will still be at a distance from our planet of more than 10 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
"Asteroids are taken very seriously by NASA. Since this asteroid is changing its orbit it has become news," Dwivedi told CNN.
Unfortunately, the pupils could not celebrate the discovery at school due to the ongoing pandemic, but Vekariya said, "this was a dream. I want to become an astronaut. It is such a vast topic. There is no limit to search in space, especially the black hole theory."
For more impressive student achievements, check out this team of Engineering students trying to beat the world record for the fastest electric monowheel, this student who built a mechanical dinosaur costume at home, and this 16-year-old who crafted the world's first TOLED smart glasses.