An asteroid which is slowly moving towards Earth was recently discovered by two Indian schoolgirls.
Asteroids, also known as minor planets, are small rocky objects that orbit the sun.
The 14-year-old students Vaidehi Vekariya and Radhika Lakhani discovered the asteroid during a two-month science programme called the "All India Asteroid Search Campaign 2020". They then named the asteroid HLC2514. The Pan-STARRS telescope is the world's largest and most powerful digital camera pointed at the sky, and was funded by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observatory program, which tracks down potentially unsafe space rocks hurtling towards Earth.
The girls, from the city of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat, were participating in a Space India and NASA project, which allows students to analyze images taken by a telescope positioned at the University of Hawaii. After the analysis was over, the details were sent out to NASA.
The girls were able to identify the object by being on the lookout for moving objects in the images. Vekariya, 15, told CNN that on July 23 they had received an email from NASA which confirmed that they had spotted an asteroid heading for earth.
The Asteroid Search training program they were part of was conducted by SPACE India in partnership with a NASA-affiliated citizen scientist group called the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC). However, in over a million years, it will move closer to Earth.
As per the report, the asteroid is now near Mars and its orbit is expected to cross that of Earth in about 1 million years. "Since this asteroid is changing its orbit it has become news", said Dwivedi.