Brazilian public school student discovers asteroid

Images of the celestial body found by Micaele Gomes, 16, were captured on January 7

The sky of January 7, 2021, did not go unnoticed for Micaele Gomes, 16 years old. The young woman is in the third year of high school in the public school system of São Paulo.

In images captured by the Pan-STARRS1 project telescope, which sits atop an inactive volcano about 3,000 meters above sea level in Hawaii, a celestial body with a straight trajectory caught Michele's attention.

The student is part of the Asteroid Hunting Project, linked to the State University of São Paulo (Unesp). The project was selected by a program of the North American Space Agency (NASA), the Iasc (International Astronomical Search Collaboration). Nasa proposes to rely on the cooperation of scientists and citizens around the world for discoveries about the universe.

Contribution to professional astronomers

Michele Gomes, who has participated in the Brazilian Astronomy and Astronautics Olympiad (OBA), says he is proud to represent public school students and hopes to inspire other girls. "Being able to contribute to science in this way represents a lot of the realization of a dream. It's really cool to have some of my dreams recorded in space."

The student is part of a group of five students, organized by unesp's physics graduate Helena Ferreira Carrara, as part of the undergraduate scientific initiation project and the Bauru Astronomy Observatory.

The findings of the Asteroid Hunt Project will contribute to the studies of professional astronomers, who do not always have time to analyze the images captured by the telescopes, Helena points out.

She explains that the creation of the project was inspired by the philosophy of citizen science and the inclusion of students, especially from the public network, who face challenges to deepen research, but who can help space agencies, as is the case with Micaele.

The asteroid discovered by Micaele Gomes will now have the characteristics and route analyzed by professional astronomers, work that can take up to five years.

After this period, the study will be catalogued by the Minor Planet Center (Harvard) and then can be baptized by the discoverer. The proposal will then be brought to the International Astronomical Union, the body that officially designates these identifications.

About the name, Micaele says that calmly, in the coming days or months, he will think of something special that represents this moment well.

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