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Delhi girls find asteroid

As a child her mother told her that it takes eight minutes for the sun’s rays to reach the earth. This simple fact is etched in the memory of Pragya Chawla, who along with her class mate, Aprajita Aggarwal, discovered an asteroid last month.

delhi Updated: Jul 26, 2011 23:49 IST
Mallica Joshi

As a child her mother told her that it takes eight minutes for the sun’s rays to reach the earth. This simple fact is etched in the memory of Pragya Chawla, who along with her class mate, Aprajita Aggarwal, discovered an asteroid last month.

But it is not just any asteroid that the two girls from Bal Bharati Public School, Ganga Ram Hospital Marg, discovered. The two astronomy enthusiasts have managed to find a rare Trojan asteroid. These are rare asteroids that have been pulled gravitationally by Jupiter into its orbit.

While the students discovered a new asteroid, called 2011 MV9, in June, the news that their discovery was very rare reached them on Monday evening.

“We found out just yesterday. We were very excited to find an asteroid but the fact that it is a big discovery is yet to sink in,” said Chawla.

Aggarwal and Chawla are part of the All India Asteroid Search Campaign organised by SPACE, an organisation that works with students to increase interest in astronomy.

The organisation sends images from outer space to students in 70 different countries. Students use both manual calculations and softwares to find new solar bodies.

The duo had earlier made preliminary discoveries of asteroids but they were not confirmed by the Minor Planets Centre (MPC) in USA.

But Monday turned out to be a lucky day for the two Class 12 students as the MPC told them that their discovery was not an ordinary one.

The students can, after two years, rename the asteroid according to their wish.

“We have not thought of any name so far. Two years is a long time. We will, perhaps, use the initials of our names or something of the kind,” said Aggarwal.

Since the asteroid discovery programme was started five years back, students from all over the world have been discovering asteroids.

Last year, two Indian students from Delhi became the first ones in the country to discover an asteroid, but the discovery by the two girls is even bigger as the asteroid is a rare one.

“We both plan to stay connected to the field as it holds a special charm for us,” Aggarwal said. While Chawla plans to pursue higher studies in Physics from Delhi University, Aggarwal plans to become an Aeronautical Engineer.

Asteroid Facts

Asteroids are small solar system bodies that orbit around the Sun. The term asteroid is used for an astronomical object orbiting the Sun that does not resemble a planet or a comet.

Trojan asteroids
These are rare asteroids that have been pulled gravitationally by Jupiter and which share
the orbit of the planet around the Sun.