Nine students of Kathua school participated in NASA global asteroid search campaign

JAMMU — In the first, nine students of a private school in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district participated in a global asteroid search campaign as part of NASA’s citizen science project.

The campaign was organised by Delhi-based Homi Lab in association with the International Astronomical search collaboration (IASC) from October 21 to November 15, Homi Lab said in a press release here.

A spokesperson of the lab said this was the first time that a school from the Kathua district has participated in the NASA Campaign.

It said Shrnya, Abhay Pratap Singh, Divum Bharti, Rashi Sharma, Alyssa Sardhalia, Samar Pratap Singh Bhadwal, Mehul Sharma, Mrigan Kamouli Vaishisth and Pranaya Mahajan from Spring Dales English School Kathua participated in the Kalam Asteroid Search Campaign.

“As part of NASA’s citizen science project that is conducted by Hardin Simmons University, USA, under this programme, IASC and Homi Lab deployed a unique platform that gave selected participants a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover real near-Earth objects and Main Belt asteroids. Outreach and training support was extended by Kalam Centre, Delhi,” the release said.

It said a total of 105 participants from nine countries were selected across the globe through a rigorous screening process and were later trained to analyse data and spot potential asteroids close to the earth.

“At the end of the campaign, young minds made path-breaking contributions to NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Programme and discovered three preliminary asteroids. Preliminary discoveries are the first observations of asteroids found in the main belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter which need further confirmation to go to provisional status,” the release said.

It said this usually takes up to five years after which the asteroid can be officially catalogued by the Minor Planet Center, International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The release said selected participants were provided highly specialised training in order to operate the advanced astronomical software, Astrometrica.

This software is used to analyse images from the ‘Pan Starrs’ (The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) telescope, located in Hawaii, USA. It uses a 1.8 m (60 inch) telescope to survey the sky to look for asteroids, comets, and Near-Earth Objects (NEO).

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Homi Lab, Srijan Pal Singh, congratulated the students and said “these discoveries are crucial contributions to our knowledge of the cosmos around us.

“Knowing the asteroids around and mapping them is an important element in our bid to understand and monitor these travelling rocks from distant worlds around our planet,” he said. — (PTI)