2 Indian teens discover Earth-bound asteroid near Mars

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

New Delhi (NVI): Two teenage girls from India have discovered an Earth-bound asteroid, which is presently near Mars, by poring through images from a University of Hawaii telescope.

The asteroid orbit is expected to cross that of Earth in about one million years’ time, said SPACE India, a private institute where the two girls have received training.

Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani, both 14 and in 10th grade, belong to Surat in Gujarat, and were participants in a project sponsored by SPACE India and NASA. The project allows students to look at images from a telescope in Hawaii, a space education institute in India reported recently.

“I look forward to.. when we will get a chance to name the asteroid,” said Vaidehi Vekariya, who added that she wants to become an astronaut when she is older.

The asteroid, currently called HLV2514, may be officially christened only after NASA confirms its orbit.

Radhika Lakhani, the other student, said she was working hard on her education. “I don’t even have a TV at home, so that I can concentrate on my studies.”

The girls used specialised software to analyse the images snapped by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, and made the discovery in June, SPACE India said.

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