Vaibhav Sapra and Sharanjeet Singh of Bal Bharati Public School, Pitampura, have discovered a Main Belt Asteroid, ensuring for themselves a name in history.

Conducted by non-government organisation Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) in collaboration with the United States-based International Astronomical Search Collaboration, the All-India Asteroid Search Campaign-2011 concluded in August. It involved school and college students from across the country working with a special software to discover asteroids. The students, divided into groups of two each, collaborated and analysed their data for asteroid hunting. It was a difficult and challenging task for Vaibhav and Sharanjeet, both Science students, to jointly detect the asteroid from a series of pictures of the sky.

According to Sharanjeet, the three-month-long campaign involved software training, studying and spotting moving objects on the highly-advanced Astrometrica software. “We had to assume the shape of the asteroid. For each image, there was a graph which we had to jointly analyse and prepare a report.”

Once the report was completed, the duo despatched it to renowned astrophysicist and head of International Astronomical Search Collaboration Miller Patrick.

Since there is an official confirmation of discovering “2011QM14,” the name of the new asteroid, both Vaibhav and Sharanjeet will now have to wait till its orbit is completely known. “It will take three to six years, and then we will be allowed to give it a name. We have not decided the name yet,” Sharanjeet said.

Reacting to his son's discovery, Rajeev Sapra, an executive engineer in Delhi Transco Limited, said he is on cloud nine. “A couple of years ago, I purchased a small telescope for my son. Last year, he wanted a bigger telescope. I invested in it because astrophysics is Vaibhav's field of specialisation.”

Sixty school and colleges from different metropolises participated in the campaign.

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